The Bhagavad-Gita and Ethics

Discussion in 'Eastern Philosophy' started by Prince_James, Aug 21, 2005.

  1. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member

    Krishna urges Arjuna to do his duty because it is the work of a warrior a just war is something he should delight in being a part of. Does this mean that Krishna is basically saying that morality is subjective? That it is moral for a warrior to fight because he takes pride in fighting, desires to fight, and Arjuna ought to also fight because it is in a just war, and thus the highest thing a warrior can aspire to? Or does Hinduism assert a duty-based morality or even something entirely else?
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  3. water the sea Registered Senior Member

    I'm not an expert, but read for yourself, from

    BG 2.38: Do thou fight for the sake of fighting, without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat — and by so doing you shall never incur sin.

    BG 2.47: You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.

    BG 2.48: Perform your duty equipoised, O Arjuna, abandoning all attachment to success or failure. Such equanimity is called yoga.

    BG 3.8: Perform your prescribed duty, for action is better than inaction. A man cannot even maintain his physical body without work.

    This site has a search engine, look up duty:
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  5. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member

    Many thanks for posting some pertinent verses of the scripture, it always helps to have it right infront of oneself, even if I have read it before.

    It would seem that Krishna is essentially asserting that, whilst meaningless, it is better for someone to do it, as atleast one will live in the present life. So really, Arjuna should fight basically because it is subjectively better for him to do so, and that all his problems -with- fighting are meaningless, for he can't -really- do anything. But at the same time, if one is outside the entitled fruits of action, would that not even the most evil man is, infact, evil? One could be a yogi and say, a rapist genocidal maniac?
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  7. everneo Re-searcher Registered Senior Member

    2 huge armies already gathered and the fighting would start soon. Arjuna, seeing his cousins, masters and friends on the opposite side, scared to think of the consequences - death & loss of near and dear ones.. He was not willing to get his (his brother's) own kingdom back with such destruction. Though he was a great warrior he was compassionate too. He hated the war imposed on him (and his brothers) by his cousin's unjust hatred and zealousy. This was the situation that gave birth to the treatise 'Bhagavad Gita' by Krishna on the battlefield.

    Krishna asks Arjun to do his duty as a just warrior regardless of his own passion or hatred, regardless of his own likings or dislikings. How Krishna's demand of fighting for justice is subjective to Arjun?
  8. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member

    If life-and-death and suffering are essentially meaningless, and one's duty is just to be done because it is one's duty, and that it is subjectively valuable to oneself on the relative level of day-to-day interactions, and even justice is something one is "not entitled to the fruits of", then how could Krishna -not- be telling Arjuna to just fight for the sake of fighting/subjective reasons? Ultimately, by Krishan's reasonings, it should not -truly- matter if he did or not, no?
  9. everneo Re-searcher Registered Senior Member

    It is difficult to breakdown your big single sentence.

    1. Krishna was there to defeat injustice.

    2. Arjun's good nature came to the fore as dilemma and preventing him to work for greater cause.

    3. Krishna told him to ignore his individual feelings and give preference to greater cause.

    4. Arjun was unable to do this.

    5. Krishna then told the true nature of one's self. How & Why death and suffering inflict the self; how to detach them from the self; The essence of Bhahavad Gita.

    The War, Arjun's hard choices before him are all forming the perfect time & ambience for one to recieve spiritual knowledge. Had Krishna told Arjun the same thing in ordinary times Gita would not had been that effective on Arjun or us.

    Two things were made clear by Krishna's act.

    1. The injustice to be defeated. (this has profound meaning in life)

    2. Those who can do that should not back off from that due to their own personal afflictions that happen to be detrimental to the greater cause. (To clear such dilemma, Bhahavad Gita came as a gift to them, though in general everyone can be benefited by this spritual knowledge)
  10. water the sea Registered Senior Member

    I don't remember the exact verse (but I think it is withion the first three chapters), but:
    We are supposed to do our duty and think of God.

    We do not do things for ourselves, we are not the doer. It is Krishna who is the final Enjoyer, and we are mistaking if we think we are the ejnoyer of the fruits of our work.


    I once made this little compilation of verses from the BG:

    A man must elevate himself by his own mind, not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.

    For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his very mind will be the greatest enemy.

    But those who are not situated in self-realization cannot see what is taking place, though they may try to.

    One who is, however, taking pleasure in the self, who is illuminated in the self, who rejoices in and is satisfied with the self only, fully satiated--for him there is no duty.

    A self-realized man has no purpose to fulfill in the discharge of his prescribed duties, nor has he any reason not to perform such work. Nor has he any need to depend on any other living being.

    And that happiness which is blind to self-realization, which is delusion from beginning to end and which arises from sleep, laziness and illusion is said to be of the nature of ignorance.

    The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.

    For one whose mind is unbridled, self-realization is difficult work. But he whose mind is controlled and who strives by right means is assured of success.

    Now, if one reads *just* such verses, the BG seems to espuse "know thyself for the sake of knowing thyself" -- which is wrong.
    Knowing the self only makes sense if it is in service to Krishna.

    Chapter 10, Verse 10.
    To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2005
  11. water the sea Registered Senior Member

    BG 2, 31
    Considering your specific duty as a ksatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation.

    BG 3, 35
    It is far better to discharge one's prescribed duties, even though they may be faultily, than another's duties. Destruction in the course of performing one's own duty is better than engaging in another's duties, for to follow another's path is dangerous.

    No. If he would be that, then he wouldn't be serving Krishna.

    BG 17,14
    The austerity of the body consists in this: worship of the Supreme Lord, the brahmanas, the spiritual master, and superiors like the father and mother. Cleanliness, simplicity, celibacy and nonviolence are also austerities of the body.

    BG 16, 1-3
    The Blessed Lord said: Fearlessness, purification of one's existence, cultivation of spiritual knowledge, charity, self-control, performance of sacrifice, study of the Vedas, austerity and simplicity; nonviolence, truthfulness, freedom from anger; renunciation, tranquility, aversion to faultfinding, compassion and freedom from covetousness; gentleness, modesty and steady determination; vigor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, freedom from envy and the passion for honor--these transcendental qualities, O son of Bharata, belong to godly men endowed with divine nature.

    BG 13, 8-12
    Humility, pridelessness, nonviolence, tolerance, simplicity, approaching a bona fide spiritual master, cleanliness, steadiness and self-control; renunciation of the objects of sense gratification, absence of false ego, the perception of the evil of birth, death, old age and disease; nonattachment to children, wife, home and the rest, and even-mindedness amid pleasant and unpleasant events; constant and unalloyed devotion to Me, resorting to solitary places, detachment from the general mass of people; accepting the importance of self-realization, and philosophical search for the Absolute Truth--all these I thus declare to be knowledge, and what is contrary to these is ignorance.
  12. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member


    But I ask this: If life, death, suffering, et cetera, are ultimately meaningless, why ought one fight against injustice at all? If even a genocidal maniac cannot kill one person, and the Self does not enjoy one act, then why act at al, or why restrict action in anyway?


    Might not one also interpret this as an example of the various paths to God in Hindu thought? With the latter being an example of bhakti worship, as opposed to the more philosophical approach of the other system?

    But in the end, if all of this is meaningless, why not indulge in all sorts of evil things? Is not destruction just as natural to the universe as love?
  13. water the sea Registered Senior Member

    Two very important things here:
    Action is better than inaction. Proper action is that which is devoted to service to God.
    A person cannot be killed -- that is, a soul cannot be killed, only the bodily functions terminated.
    Life is meaningless only if one lives guided by ignorance and lust.

    As for fighting against injustice: There is justice as understood by humans, and justice as God has it. The two are not necessarily the same. Fighting for worldly justice (for the sake of worldly justice) betrays that such a person values the worldly, the material, higher than the godly. In which case they are not serving God.

    I'm not qualified to answer this. I've only some knowledge of the BG, but not Hinduismr. The BG is not a Hindu text, even though the Hindu might use it.

    It might seem so. But the aim of life, so the BG, is to break out of the circle of rebirth, and this cannot be done unless one serves Krishna. Indulging in "all sorts of evil things" keeps a living being in the circle of rebirth, where it suffers.

    The thing to realize is that living beings do not want to suffer, and they want to get away from suffering. This may sound very simple, or even simplistic, but it is in fact not an easy realization, as I have experienced.
    Many people become victim to the idea that suffering is inevitable (true), and therefore they might just as well forget about ever getting out of it (not true).

    I'm not sure I have answered your questions to your satisfaction. It seems something is bothering you, but I can't quite understand what it is.
  14. everneo Re-searcher Registered Senior Member

    Death by sickness/accident, suffering in humiliation are equivalent to dying, suffering for a noble cause? It is the process, the action in right way that prepares the self for liberation in the otherwise meaningless life. The three major ways for self :

    1. degrade and further entangle the self with bad karma.

    2. waste the life with no improvement for the self by being inactive. It is a lazy nihilist way.

    3. acquire the strength and wisdom along the way for liberation with right karma.

    Bhahavad Gita is advocating 3rd way with strong inclination towards remaining detached. The results of this right action may be deicated to Krishna whether they yield joy or sorrow. Just to ensure the very purpose of being balanced. A maniac cannot dedicate the results of his action to the lord.
  15. everneo Re-searcher Registered Senior Member

    Ironically, though BG is an universal treasure for all, religions other than hinduism have their own 'the only right way' illusion.

    The last part sounds a bit like christianity. Krishna just gives the assurance to those who serve him but he never meant he is the only way. Assuming his original self - the God - krishna allows everyone to follow their own deity and says ultimately they reach him, like all rivers reach the ocean.
  16. water the sea Registered Senior Member

    Quote the verse that states so.
    You mean following their own HALF-deities?

    One's last thought while in the body is to be of Krishna, or one will not be able to join Him on the highest planets.
  17. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member


    I am not saying that life is necessarily "meaningless", in and of itself, but if the soul cannot be killed, if nothing can truly be destroyed, if the material world is filled with the trappings of illusion, then why choose goodness over evil? For once again, is not destruction part of nature?

    Now, as regards justice, I am not so sure if you're right here. Arjuna's sense of justice - though it fails to keep him in high spirits - and Krishna's sense of justice, are united throughout. Arjuna never argues that it isn't just to attack, only that he would be fighting his family.

    Waitwaitwaitwaitwait, what? The BG is not a Hindu text now?

    If one dedicates the fruit's of one's actions to Krishna - be they evil or not - and acts without interest for self, even if one is doing evil things, would not one still be able to attain to moksha?

    Yes, living beings do want to get away from suffering, and many are deluded into thinking that suffering is impossible to be defeated, yes.

    Hmm, I wouldn't say anything is bothering me, no.


    Whilst I can certainly understand attaining good karma for having a better change at achieving moksha, and indeed, that makes good actions very logical. However, I ask why a "maniac" cannot dedicate his actions to God? In the Ramayana, the Demon King is said to be a powerful Yogi who has received favour from Brahma. Would not this seem to indicate that Hinduism allows for even the wicked to attain some semblance of spiritual advancement?

    A theory for all to consider:

    If the world was filled with even -more- evil and suffering, would not this be an impetus to get away from it? In that way, could not evil people actually bring about spiritual truth for many?
  18. everneo Re-searcher Registered Senior Member

    Whosoever desires to worship whatever deity — using any name, form, and method — with faith, I make their faith steady in that very deity. Endowed with steady faith they worship that deity, and obtain their wishes through that deity. Those wishes are, indeed, granted only by Me. (7.21-22)

    If the wishes are of higher or "Moksha" / liberation itself, still they are granted by the supreme being (Me refers to God, not as 'incarnated' Krishna).

    Through out Gita, well most part, Krishna was talking as the transcendental Supreme Being.

    I would say, Krishna was refereing to himself (his original self) as the Supreme Being, not as Krishna the God incarnate. The following verses make it clear :

    The ignorant ones — unable to understand My immutable, incomparable, incomprehensible, and transcendental form — assume that I, the Supreme Being, am formless and take forms or incarnate. Concealed by My divine power (Maya), I do not reveal Myself to such ignorants who do not know and understand My unborn, eternal, and transcendental form and personality. (7.24-25)
  19. everneo Re-searcher Registered Senior Member

    If you refer to Ravana the demon king, please remember that he deserved the fruits of his penance. With the power he thus attained he went astray. It is evident even now, good people let alone a demon king, too make a single blunder that makes them villains. Perhaps they have more redeeming qualities than others but a single mistake or a wrong turn renders all those good qualities useless.

    Thats why satan was there in bible, i presume. But the all pervading evilness blinds the spritual vision of everyone hence the probability of finding the right path will be almost nil.
  20. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member


    Yes, I could not remember his name at the time of posting. But yes, he sought a boon from Brahma for utterly evil purposes and did attain it. So it would seem that, at the very least, Brahma is willing to give evil people something if they pray to them.

    What about a less than all-prevading evil, with atleast some good in the world?
  21. water the sea Registered Senior Member


    If nothing can truly be destroyed -- can destruction exist at all?

    Arjuna's problem at that point was attachment, and thereby connected the belief that one living being is different from another. Such a belief is wrong, as all living beings are essentially the same, but our attachment to them makes them look different to us.
    As you know, the BG preaches to not be attached.

    A Krishna devotee told me that it is not, and I have also read on it. Check out the forum I sent you the link to. There is a section "Questions to the editor", where many frequent questions are answered.

    Do give a few examples of evil actions that one could dedicate to Krishna.
    Doing evil would necessarily involve violence, inflicting pain upon other living beings and lying. Neither of these are virtuous actions.

    An example I can think of is "I will go and shoot down as many people as I can, and will dedicate the fruits of my action to Krishna". I do not think Krishna would accept this.

    Because he, as a "maniac", is lead by the gunas of ignorance and lust, and acting upon these two is sure to bring bad karma.

    Careful here with the term "wicked". Just because someone seems wicked to his fellow humans, doesn't necessarily make him so in God's eyes; we don't know how God leads this person, and maybe God allows them to be so, or even temporarily worsens them, so as to achieve a greater good.

    Theoretically, yes. This evil would then, so to speak, purge away itself (battling evil with evil), and what would be left is the truth.

    * * *


    That's not what I meant. A person, when dying, must have his last thought of Krishna, or he won't exit the rebirth cycle.
    But to have your last thought be of Krishna, you better practice and chant His name every day of your life, on and on. Worshipping other gods (Allah, for example) is not likely to lead you to your last thought being of Krishna.

    * * *


    A bit late in the discussion, but: What do you mean by "evil" and "good"?
  22. everneo Re-searcher Registered Senior Member

    That's what some krishna cults assert. Nothing of that sort suggested in BG.
  23. everneo Re-searcher Registered Senior Member

    Even the devil will get his due if he observes hard penance.

    Why the good ones should get liberation in the hard way?

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