Monday, September 1, 2008

Chapter 10, Verse 24

I have tried to move this blog forward several times but have removed each of those posts. As a result of being unsuccessful in those approaches I have now decided on the approach of selecting random verses from Bhagavad-gita and seeing where they go.

The first random verse is Chapter 10, Verse 24. Kreeshna is speaking. Charles Wilkins’s translation is:

“Amongst teachers know that I am their chief Vreehaspatee; amongst warriors I am Skanda; and amongst floods I am the ocean.”

In Chapter 10 Kreeshna describes his “divine distinctions” to Arjoon. This chapter brings up an aspect of Bhagavad-gita that put me off when I first briefly examined a translation, and led to my soon placing it back on the display table I had picked it up from. The chapter contains many unfamiliar names and terms that had no meaning for me then. Vreehaspatee is a good example of one. In Bhagvat-Geeta Charles Wilkins does provide an end note which explains that Vreehaspatee is “the preceptor of the Devs or Dews, the planet Jupiter and Dies Jovis.” Though this does provide some additional information, it still does not explain much. In the following I will attempt to provide some context for these names and terms to aid understanding.

Wilkins titles Chapter 10 (Lecture 10, as he calls it), “Of the Diversity of the Divine Nature.” Kreeshna is responding to Arjoon’s questions. Arjoon has just said (verses 12-15):

"All the Reeshees, the Devarshees, and the prophet Narad, call thee the supreme Brahm; the supreme abode; the most holy; the most high God; the eternal Poorosh, the divine being before all other Gods, without birth, the mighty Lord! Thus say Aseeta, Devala, Vyas, and thou thyself hast told me so; and I firmly believe, O Kesava, all thou tellest me. Neither the Dews nor the Danoos are acquainted, O Lord, with thy appearance. Thou alone, O first of men! knowest thy own spirit; thou, who art the production of all nature, the ruler of all things, the God of Gods, and the universal Lord!"

Now Arjoon is asking Kreeshna to describe “those divine portions of thyself, by which thou possessest and dwellest in this world.” So Kreeshna is delineating “the chief of [his] divine distinctions” for Arjoon. Kreeshna is saying he “dwellest in this world” as Vreehaspatee and Skanda and the ocean, among many other things. And each of these is distinguished by being the greatest of its category. Vreephaspatee is the greatest of teachers, Skanda is the greatest of generals, and the ocean is the greatest of “floods” [or “lakes” (Miller), “water-floods” (Arnold), or “bodies of water” (Prabhupada)]. Arjoon has asked, “How shall I, although I constantly think of thee, be able to know thee? In what particular natures art thou to be found? Tell me again in full what is thy connection, and what thy distinction.” So Kreeshna is giving Arjoon ways to think of him that are related to the world Arjoon knows, so he can have a better conception of who Kreeshna is. In Arjoon’s words Kreeshna is “the production [bhavana, i.e., causation (Monier-Williams), origin (Prabhupada)] of all nature, the ruler of all things, the God of Gods, and the universal Lord.” But Arjoon wants to know “in what particular natures art thou to be found?” in order to have a more tangible understanding of who Kreeshna is.