My Project and Resolution to complete in 2022
I got a taste for the Ramcharitamanas and some of the popular Slokas of Bhagavad Gita in my early school days, when my grandfather would reinforce his advice by quoting some Sanskrit Slokas. He often used the following well-known shloka from the Gita
‘कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन, ..’ and
‘या निशा सर्वभूतानां तस्यां जागर्ति संयमी’, when offering his sage advice.
In my high-school days, Sanskrit used to be offered as a subject for the school final examinations (a major exam you had to take at the end of Class 10 or 10th grade). I took Sanskrit as a subject for a full four years. However, years later when I tried to recall my Sanskrit, I realized I had forgotten everything. The only things I could recall easily were my own work-related technologies and management techniques in which I had specialised in on my own during my 40-year professional career.
Interestingly, at IIT, Kharagpur, where I got my Bachelor’s degree, the Institute’s motto was ‘योग: कर्मसु कौशलम्’ (yogah karmasu kausalam). This, my grandfather had explained to me, was one of the famous Slokas from Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita.
Later on, after my wife joined me in Hindustan Motors residential colony, and because of her, I gradually started becoming more and more spiritually inclined.
I don’t recall exactly when I started doing morning puja (prayers) and reading some portions of the Ramcharitamanas on a daily basis. In later years, I tried to read some passages of the Bhagavad Gita too, particularly regarding the स्थिप्रज्ञता in chapter 2. This interest grew with time.
I had seen my grandfather finish a complete reading of the Ramcharitamanas every month (Masaparayana) and then even in nine days (Navaparayana) during the two Navratri festival times in a year.
By 1990, I too started down that path, and my spiritual interest grew deeper over the years. I carried on with the daily practice of reading the Ramcharitamanas without fail, no matter what the conditions were like. This continued even while travelling within the country, or abroad, which at one point of my work-life at Hindustan Motors had become a regular part of my assignments. This spiritual fervour grew till my heart attack in 1999 December end in Noida.
At that time I was working, after my retirement from Hindustan Motors, as the President of a factory. It was sudden, and came as a big shock. This changed my life in a big way.
One day, the 27th of April 2000, I came across and bought a little book – ‘The Curative Powers of the Holy Gita’ – with about 33 Slokas compiled by one T. R. Seshadri. This was a time when I was still recovering from my open-heart surgery which was done by Dr. Naresh Trehan of the Escorts Heart Hospital.
I started reading the slokas from this little book every morning during my puja. In October, the same year, we went to our house in Salt Lake City in Kolkata that I had built while still working at Hindustan Motors. There, we decided collectively – with our children – that I must resign from my job and live a carefree retired life, enjoying the years left.
We decided to live in Noida, close to Delhi. Upon the insistence of my wife, we bought a house in Sector 41, Noida, in 1998, and moved in . We preferred Noida over Salt Lake as I found it more cosmopolitan, with better amenities like hospitals and proximity to New Delhi International Airport, which was much better connected, something we missed while we were in Kolkata. With my three sons living in the US, this was another big plus.
After my retirement, I completed writing – ‘Latest Trends in Machining’- my last book on technical topics. Thereafter, I had to decide my daily schedule of activities in order to stay busy during the day, which, for a work-oriented person like me, appeared quite daunting at that time.
To my daily Puja, in addition to reading Slokas from the book I mentioned earlier, I added Ashram Bhajanavali of Mahatma Gandhi and Sundar Kand from the Ramcharitamanas. Later on, I started a deeper study of the spiritual texts that I already had in abundance in my personal library by then.
It was only in 2019-20 and more so with the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic and the total lockout that followed, that I switched gears – getting on with serious study of the Bhagwad Gita and thereafter the major Upanishads. I procured the commentaries by a number of reputed writers for both the texts – in English and Hindi. Starting early in the morning, every day, I spent hours studying these commentaries one by one, often reading them again and again. I kept jotting down, in my yellow notebook some of the Slokas that struck a chord and also started memorising them. Perhaps, due to my advancing age, I started appreciating these more and more, often seeing some new light shine through every time I picked up and read or re-read the slokas.
Having built a culture of diving deep to understand the engineering issues, and pouring my sweat and toil in breaking any technical challenges, during my work years, I now found new meaning in those experiences with these texts as my guide. Trying to plumb the depths of what the sages were trying to relay, I found that what we are seeking in “real life” (as in, during our frantic/hard-working professional years), has many parallels with the ultimate search – the search for true ‘divinity’.
Shrimad Bhagwad Gita is a part of the great epic of the world, the Mahabharata, known to have been penned down by Ved Vyasa, thousands of years ago. The Mahabharata has a total of one hundred thousand Slokas in its eighteen parvas (chapters). In Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita with its 700 Slokas, was in Bhishma Parva of the Shri Bhagavad Gita Parva’ (designated ‘up-parva’), and starts from chapter 23 and ends in chapter 40.
Perhaps Shankaracharya was the first one to have taken the Bhagavad Gita “out” of the Mahabharata epic, sometime in the eighth century AD, and accorded to it its own identity – freeing it in some ways from the Mahabharata.
He also wrote its first ‘bhasya’ – a commentary – in simpler Sanskrit prose, for its 700 verses with a profound introduction. He considered the Bhagavad Gita as the collected essence of the messages of all Vedas- ‘समस्तवेदार्थसारसंग्रहभूतम्’ (samast vedarth saar sangrahabutam). Some consider Gita as an Upanishad too. The Bhagwad Gita itself at the end of each chapter says, ‘श्रीमद्भगवगदगीसूपनिषत्सु ब्रह्मविद्यायो योगशास्त्रे श्री कृष्णार्जुनसंवाद……’ ( ..shrimadbhadvad Gita Su upanishadsu bhramavidyayo yogashastre Shri Krishnarjun samvad..). Also, at the end of the name of all the chapters (as suffix) it uses the word ‘योग’ (Yog), कर्मयोग (Karmayoga), ज्ञानयोग (Jnanyoga), etc.
Bhagavad Gita got designated as one of the three Hindu scriptures of प्रस्थानत्रयी, prashthantrayi- which includes the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra, and the Bhagavad Gita.
The Bhagwad Gita is universally considered as a unique treatise, providing a detail handbook of the essence of all the 108 or more of the Upanishads, perhaps, of all the Vedas and other earlier scriptures for the use of all people – no matter which country or culture they come from. Swami Vivekananda, the Hindu monk who opened the eyes of the West and his beloved India to this great spiritual heritage, says in his ‘Complete Works’,
“no better commentary on the Vedas than Gita has been written or can be written. The essence of the Shrutis, or the Upanishads, is hard to understand. There were so many commentators, each one trying to interpret in his own way. Then the Lord (Krishna) Himself comes, He who is the inspirer of the Shrutis, to show us the meaning of them, as the preacher of the Gita, and today India wants nothing better than that type of interpretation.”
Some commentators give credit to Anand Giri, who first declared that the Bhagavad Gita illustrates the detailed message of one of the four mahavakyas of the Upanishads- ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ –‘That Thou Art’. The Gita provides a deep understanding of the profound truth of the Upanishads. Each word of the mahavakya has been explained in the Bhagavad Gita.
The first six chapters, from the first to sixth, talk of ‘tvam’-‘Thou’, the Atman, and deal with the nature of the real eternal Self in every being. The next six chapters, from the seventh to the twelfth, dwell on ‘Tat’ – ‘That’: Brahman, the Supreme Reality underlying all creation. The last six chapters from the thirteenth to the eighteenth focuses on ‘Asi’, ‘is’ – the relationship between ‘Tvam’ and ‘Tat’- the relation of the the eternal Self in every beings with the Supreme Reality, which unites all existence into one whole- ‘Ekstavam’. Gita provides the guidelines for discovering one’s real Self and then, if one wishes, can progress further to realise the indivisible unity of life and get united with the Supreme Reality, the Brahman.
Madhusudan Saraswati (1590-1607AD), credited by many as the best commentator of the Bhagavad Gita after Adi Shankaracharya, divides the eighteen chapters in the same three sections with each dealing successively with Karma Yoga or the yoga of action (Chapters 1-6), Bhakti Yoga or the yoga of love of the Supreme (Chapters 7-12), and finally Gyan Yoga (Chapters 13-18) or the yoga of knowledge. However, Adi Shankaracharya did not mention the above categories in his commentary of the Bhagavad Gita.
My Need for This Collection
Interestingly, Swami Vivekananda in ‘The Mission of Vedanta’ writes –
“ …Aye, if there is anything in the Gita that I like it is these two verses, (XIII 27,28) coming out strong as the very gist, the very essence, of Krishna’s teaching” :
समं सर्वेषु भूतेषु तिष्ठन्तं परमेश्वरम्
विनश्यत्स्वविनश्यन्तं यः पश्यति स पश्यति ॥13.27॥
samaṁ sarveṣu bhūteṣu tiṣṭhantaṁ parameśvaram
vinaśyatsvavinaśyantaṁ yaḥ paśyati sa paśyati.
He who sees the supreme Lord dwelling in all beings, the Imperishable in things that perish, he sees indeed.
समं पश्यन्हि सर्वत्र समवस्थितमीश्वरम् ।
न हिनस्त्यात्मनात्मानं ततो याति परां गतिम् ॥13.28॥
samaṁ paśyanhi sarvatra samavasthitamīśvaram,
na hinastyātmanātmānaṁ tato yāti parāṁ gatim.
For seeing the Lord as the same, present everywhere, he does not destroy the Self by the self, and thus he goes to the highest goal.”
The presence of Self in every being is one of the main topics of Upanishads. However, the Slokas of Bhagavad Gita above remind of the similar Slokas 6 and 7 in Isopanisad, the one of the oldest Upanishads:
यस्तु सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मन्येवानुपश्यति।
सर्वभूतेषु चात्मानं ततो न विजुगुप्सते ॥6॥
यस्मिन् सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मैवाभूद् विजानतः।
तत्र को मोहः कः शोक एकत्वमनुपश्यतः ॥7॥
Swami Sivanand of The Divine Society has brought to our attention another Sloka, in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, and called it एकश्लोकीय गीता (ek slokiya gita). This is the last Sloka 78 of Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 18, by which Sanjaya concludes his narration of the Bhagavad Gita in Kurukshetra to the blind King Dhritrashtra in his capital city of Hastinapur:
यत्र योगेश्वरः कृष्णो यत्र पार्थो धनुर्धरः ।
तत्र श्रीर्विजयो भूतिर्ध्रुवा नीतिर्मतिर्मम ॥
हे राजन! जहाँ योगेश्वर श्रीकृष्ण हैं और जहाँ गाण्डीव-धनुषधारी अर्जुन है, वहीं पर श्री, विजय, विभूति और अचल नीति है- ऐसा मेरा मत है.
Wherever is Krishna, the Lord of Yoga, wherever is Partha, the archer, there is prosperity, victory, happiness and sound policy; this is my conviction.
Swami Sivanand has also selected seven Slokas that contain the essence of the whole Gita and called it सप्तश्लोकी गीता with 7 Slokas (8-13, 11-36,13-13,8-9,15-1,15-15,9-34).
A visiting Pandit (wise man) once requested Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi to select a few key Slokas out of the total of 700 Slokas of Bhagavad Gita, which will be enough to remember and understand the core message of the Bhagavad Gita. For an average person it is difficult to remember and retain all the seven hundred verses in memory, the Pandit explained. The Pandit then continued, ‘Is there one verse that could be remembered as the quintessence of the Gita?’ Bhagavan Raman thereupon mentioned the verse 20 of Chapter X as that verse:
अहमात्मा गुडाकेश सर्वभूताशयस्थितः ।
अहमादिश्च मध्यं च भूतानामन्त एव च ॥
हे अर्जुन! मैं सब भूतों के हृदय में स्थित सबका आत्मा हूँ तथा
संपूर्ण भूतों का आदि, मध्य और अंत भी मैं ही हूँ॥
‘I am the Self, Oh Gudakesa (Arjun), dwelling in the Heart of every being; I am the beginning, and the middle, and also the end of all beings.’
Later, after a few years, Maharshi Ramana, who had named the above Sloka as the essence of the Bhagavad Gita, also selected forty-two verses that represent the essence of the whole message of the Gita, and can also be easily remembered by those interested. I found that those forty two Slokas did not meet my specific needs, as audacious as this may sound.
I, therefore, while going through various commentaries of the Bhagavad Gita by five to six well-known spiritual gurus, thought of preparing a selection of the Slokas from the Hindu scriptures for my own practise, and for my family members wherever they resided – in the US, and their friends.
I started my process of selecting and preparing a comprehensive collection of Slokas from the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads that covered all its chapters, in my own way. I intended to limit myself to some 150-200 Slokas. I wanted to memorise them. These selected slokas collectively would help in understanding the universal messages of the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita – such was my thought process. Another idea was to build my own spiritual strength, and train myself to work without desire for any fruit, giving up as much as I can.
By repeating the Slokas of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramcharitamanas, as is done in bhakti yoga by chanting the name of the Supreme or a mantra, I thought I maybe able to develop the means to attain goodness and true spirituality in my conduct indirectly and help me in becoming a better human being. This compilation is the result of that attempt. I have tried to memorise most of them.
I have started repeating the memorised Slokas as many times as I have the opportunity to, once every morning in front of the statue of Mother Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge. Because of the pandemic, I have been walking alone in the morning and evening. This helps me keep my mind preoccupied with goodness I think, and I repeat these slokas while walking inside or outside the apartment, or in the walkway downstairs.
Sometimes, I have discovered a newer, inspiring insight into my weaknesses, and the way to overcome them, to become a better person, a good citizen. It gives me great satisfaction and happiness, because of a hope that maybe I will succeed in the remaining years of my physical existence in this bodily form, to become better, if not enlightened, in this very lifetime.
Perhaps, The Slokas that I have excluded will not affect me much. I tried to limit or exclude those slokas that dwell on negative aspects, such as those that detail the shortcomings of Rajshik , Tamasik, and Aasuri nature. Anyone interested in knowing about them, can always go back to the original Slokas of the Gita in Sanskrit, and the wise commentaries in many languages by respected spiritual people. Every Indian, from any walk of life, of any caste, region, or faith can go through it.
To give a broader glimpse of the ancient Hindu Scriptures, I also added a few Slokas from the Vedas, and more from a few of the major Upanishads. Then, I thought that by including some portions from the Ramcharitamanas, the most popular religious, literary creation of the Hindi belt of India, I would enrich it further. With these additions, I hope my collection is more complete.
The Vedas are the root books of all Hindu religious scriptures. The 108 Upanishads were basically integrated into the four Vedas. The Ramcharitamanas of Goswami Tulsidas, has taken the story from the earliest Sanskrit epic of Valmiki Ramayana.
The Rishis who created the Upanishads and then the Bhagavad Gita, and much later in history, Tulsidas with Ramcharitamanas, have each added their own perspectives on the spiritual path propounded in the four Vedas, about the Ultimate Reality. Through their own spiritual realisation, research and experiences they prepared these works to correct many perversions in social values that had come about in their own times in the name of the Vedas and other spiritual texts, largely because of the unlearned teachers and their undue, large influence in their contemporary societies, that eventually resulted in superstitions and other wrong practises in the name of religion due to incorrect interpretations by these social leaders.
Some of the Upanishads are in verse and some in prose. The entire Bhagavad Gita, in verse, is an evolution, I think. The scriptures evolved on the essence of the basic ideas of the key answers to the spiritual questions raised by brilliant seekers and answered by the ancient, wisest of saints and Rishis from the time of the Vedas and more importantly during the times of the Upanishads.
Many Slokas in the Gita are the same or similar, with only very small variations from the Upanishads. In Ramcharitamanas, some Dohas and chaupais are almost verbatim translations of the same core messages, with a small variation, of the essence of the Vedas, Upanishads, and then Bhagavad Gita. But the uniqueness of Ramcharitamanas is that it was written in the language of the common people from the part of the Indian subcontinent where Tulsidas was from – the Gangetic northern region. However, it has now spread all across the world through its many beautiful translations.
I hope it will be useful for my children and their friends in the US or elsewhere, who live far away from India where people of Indian origin, at large, are more and more getting educated in the English medium only. I am confident people will gradually get interested in spiritual knowledge too.alParticularly after reaching a stage in life, as we age, we start losing our interest in what we had been focused on during our ‘working years’, and yearn for some knowledge about something more than scientific/ professionally geared ‘knowledge’ that we work hard to gain over years.
I hope this collection will generate curiosity to gain more spiritual knowledge for everyone, of all ages, especially those that trace a part of their family tree to India, or are just interested in learning more about the great spiritual quest that the accomplished spiritual seekers and practitioners from the ancient times set off on.
Before I end this long introduction, I would like to emphasise that those verses that are not a part of this collection from the three most important scriptures, and the Ramcharitmanas, the story of Rama by Tulsidas, are of no lesser importance . I therefore appeal to those seriously interested, to go through such a journey on their own, and build a collection customized to their own selves, and to leave back a spiritual legacy.
For this collection, I intend to keep some blank pages at the end of the main sections, so that the readers that want to, can add some of their own selected slokas. I would love to get comments at my email regarding this and other thoughts, as you go through this : firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note- This would have been finished last year itself. On request of adding meaning of words in English and Hindi, I could not. As I keeping on reading more and more on the subjects covering very wide horizon, I feel like editing and minor adding and subtracting all the time. I could not win over this temptation.
To your quest for knowledge.