Q & A on the Gita

The Gita, or Bhagavad-gita ("The Song of God"), was spoken five thousand years ago by Lord Krsna to the prince Arjuna. It contains the essence of Vedic knowledge. The compiler has applied a question / answer format to the Introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

What is liberation?

Mukti, or liberation, means freedom from material consciousness. The Bhagavad-gita was spoken to liberate one from the bodily conception of life, and Arjuna put himself in that position to receive this information from the Lord.

One must become free from the bodily conception of life; that is the preliminary activity for the transcendentalist. One who wants to become free, who wants to become liberated, must first of all learn that he is not the material body.

The Srimad-Bhagavatam also defines liberation. Muktir hitvanyatha rupam sva-rupena vyavasthitih: "Mukti means liberation from the contaminated consciousness of this material world and situation in pure consciousness." All the instructions ofBhagavad-gita are intended to awaken this pure consciousness, and therefore we find at the last stage of the Gita's instructions that Krsna is asking Arjuna whether he is now in purified consciousness. Purified consciousness means acting in accordance with the instructions of the Lord.

What is pure activity?

The Bhagavad-gita teaches that we have to purify our materially contaminated consciousness. In pure consciousness, our actions will be dovetailed to the will of the supreme controller, and that will make us happy. It is not that we have to cease all activities. Rather, our activities are to be purified, and purified activities are called bhakti, or devotional service.

Activities in bhakti appear like ordinary activities, but they are not contaminated. An ignorant person may see that a devotee is acting or working like an ordinary man, but such a person does not know that the activities of the devotee or of the Lord are not contaminated by matter or impure consciousness. The activities of the Lord and His devotees are transcendental to the modes of nature.

We should know, however, that at this point our consciousness is contaminated. We are temporarily engaged in different activities, but when we give up these temporary activities and take up the activities prescribed by the Supreme Lord, that is pure life.

What is the impersonal Brahman?

The impersonal Brahman is the shining rays of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is also known as the brahmajyoti. The Gita explains that the impersonal Brahman is subordinate to the Supreme Person (brahmano hi pratisthaham).

What is Paramatma?

Paramatma is the form of the Lord appearing in the heart of every living entity and within each atom. Paramatma is also called the Supersoul.

Is realization of Paramatma or impersonal Brahman complete realization?

Realization of the impersonal Brahman is incomplete realization of the absolute whole, and so also is the conception of Paramatma. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Purusottama, is above both impersonal Brahman and realization of Paramatma.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead is called sac-cid-ananda-vigraha, "one whose form is composed of eternity, knowledge, and bliss." The Brahma-samhita begins in this way: "Govinda, Krsna, is the cause of all causes. He is the primal cause, and He is the very form of eternity, knowledge, and bliss."

Impersonal Brahman realization is the realization of Krsna's sat (eternity) feature. Paramatma realization is the realization of His sat-cit (eternity and knowledge) features. But realization of the Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is realization of all the transcendental features: sat, cit, and ananda (eternity, knowledge, and bliss) in complete vigraha (form).

Where is the most desirable destination?

If we properly use the instructions of Bhagavad-gita, then our whole life will become purified and ultimately we will be able to reach the destination beyond the material sky. That destination is called the eternal, spiritual sky.

In this material world we find that everything is temporary. It comes into being, stays for some time, produces some by-products, dwindles, and then vanishes. That is the law of the material world, whether we use as an example this body, or a piece of fruit, or anything. But beyond this temporary world is another world of which we have information. That world consists of another nature, which is sanatana, eternal.

In the eleventh chapter both the jiva and the Lord are described as sanatana. We have an intimate relationship with the Lord, and because we are all qualitatively one the eternal sky, the eternal Supreme Personality, and the eternal living entities the whole purpose of Bhagavad-gita is to revive our sanatana-dharma, the eternal occupation of the living entity. As long as we do not give up the propensity of lording it over material nature, there is no possibility of returning to the kingdom of the Supreme, the eternal abode.

Why does the Supreme Lord descend?

The Lord is very kind to the living entities because they are His sons. Lord Krsna declares in Bhagavad-gita, sarva-yonisu . . . aham bija-pradah pita: "I am the father of all." There are many types of living entities according to their various karmas, but here the Lord claims that He is the father of all of them. Therefore the Lord descends to reclaim all these fallen, conditioned souls, to call them back to the eternal sky so that the eternal living entities may regain their eternal positions in eternal association with the Lord. The Lord comes Himself in different incarnations, or He sends His confidential servants as His sons or associates to reclaim the conditioned souls.

What is the meaning of svarupa?

Every living being, out of the many, many billions and trillions of living beings, has a particular relationship with the Lord eternally. That is called svarupa, the constitutional position of the living entity. By the process of devotional service, one can revive thatsvarupa, and that stage is called svarupa-siddhi perfection of one's constitutional position.

What is the living entity's svarupa?

When Sanatana Gosvami asked Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu about the svarupa of every living being, the Lord replied that the svarupa, or constitutional position, of the living being is the rendering of service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If we analyze this statement of Lord Caitanya's, we can easily see that every living being is constantly engaged in rendering service to another living being. A living being serves other living beings in various capacities. By doing so, the living entity enjoys life. The lower animals serve human beings as servants serve their master. A serves B master, B serves C master, and C serves D master, and so on. One friend serves another friend, the mother serves the son, the wife serves the husband, the husband serves the wife.

No living being is exempt from service. The politician presents his manifesto for the public to convince them of his capacity for service. The voters therefore give the politician their valuable votes, thinking that he will render valuable service to society. The shopkeeper serves the customer, and the artisan serves the capitalist. The capitalist serves the family, and the family serves the state.

We can safely conclude that service is the constant companion of the living being and rendering service is the eternal religion of the living being. The Hindu, Muslim, or Christian in all circumstances is servant of someone.

Is there a connection between service and happiness?

We are related to the Supreme Lord in service. He is the supreme enjoyer, and we living entities are His servitors. We are created for His enjoyment, and if we take part in that eternal enjoyment with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we become happy. We cannot become happy otherwise. It is not possible to be happy independently, just as no one part of the body can be happy without cooperating with the stomach.

It is not possible for the living entity to be happy without rendering transcendental loving service unto the Supreme Lord.

What is the nature of Lord Sri Krsna's abode?

Among all the planets in the spiritual sky there is one supreme planet, called Goloka Vrndavana, which is the original planet in the abode of the original Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. The abode of Lord Sri Krsna is described in the Bhagavad-gita,fifteenth chapter, sixth verse:

na tad bhasayate suryo
na sasanko na pavakah
yad gatva na nivartante
tad dhama paramam mama

"That supreme abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by fire or electricity. Those who reach it never return to this material world." We have a material conception of the sky, and we think of it in relationship to the sun, moon, stars, and so on, but in this verse the Lord states that in the eternal sky there is no need for the sun, nor for the moon, electricity, or fire, because the spiritual sky is illuminated by the brahmajyoti, the rays emanating from the Supreme Lord.

In the effulgent rays of the spiritual sky there are innumerable planets floating. The brahmajyoti emanates from the supreme abode, Krsnaloka, and the spiritual planets float in those rays. The Lord says that one who can approach that spiritual sky is not required to descend again to the material sky.

Why does the Lord descend from His abode?

The Lord resides eternally in His abode, yet He can be approached from this world, and to this end the Lord comes here in His original form. When He manifests this form, there is no need for our imagining what He looks like. To discourage such imaginative speculation, He descends and exhibits Himself as He is. Unfortunately, the less intelligent deride Him because He comes as one of us and plays with us as a human being. But we should not consider the Lord one of us. By His omnipotence He presents Himself in His real form before us and displays His pastimes, which are replicas of those found in His abode.

Krishnan B. Lal, an ISKCON Life Member, is retired and lives in Huntington Beach, California.