In my study of the great spiritual text the Bhagavad-gita I have collected over 10 Vaishnava commentaries both ancient and modern—among them “Krishna’s Song” by Steven Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa). I have greatly appreciated his insights and analysis and thought I would share my impression of it with my friends.
The subtitle is fitting as indeed it is a different look at the Bhagavad-gita, at least in the way we usually think of it. The book draws from well known Western authors from the last few hundred years, as well as contemporary books and movies to discuss many of the Gita’s major philosophical ideas. It is actually a collection of bite size and tasty essays or lectures combined to form chapters which draw the educated, inquisitive reader in with catchy, compelling chapter titles.
We hear from the Chaitanya Charitamrita that by the great mercy of Shri Krishna one receives the shelter of a bona-fide guru, and by the combined mercy of both Guru and Krishna one receives the seed of the creeper of devotion. Initiation means beginning and thus we are given the tools to cultivate our personal devotional plant among the plants of the other Krishna devotees. Our tools are compared to methods to water our creeper by hearing, chanting, and remembering Krishna or any of the nine methods of devotional service.
Many important perspectives can be expressed for Janmastami or the birth/appearance day of Krishna—who is considered in Gaudiya or Chaitanya Vaishava tradition to be the original Supreme Personality of Godhead. To begin with he is not forced to take birth as we are, but “appears” or manifests himself in his original form for many external and internal reasons. Externally he appears to teach the method of self-realization for the age, to annihilate the “miscreants” or sinful, materialist people (which is done by his Vishnu aspect) and more confidentially, to protect his devotees.
Modern culture is big on goal setting, the best career path, and making a contribution—all important things, no doubt! However, the idea of perfection—what to speak of anything spiritual—is not in the general vocabulary. People's vocabulary is important to consider since it reveals their education, awareness, values and what they are absorbed in.
The word "absorbed" makes me smile. Why? I worked in a warehouse as an hourly worker for 12 years. My co-workers generally only had a high school education at best—I had just a few years of college myself which is why I worked there. More importantly they certainly didn't have any type of spiritual education or understanding of the soul and God, though perhaps a religious orientation.
Having a house and land requires doing continual upkeep and regular hours of doing small essential things that make up the big picture of a well maintained home and garden. Though I love to read and write it’s always good to get outside and work hard keeping an awareness of Krishna as the source of everything.
The reason this is important is because we live in a time when the way many companies make money is to get the population obsessed with their technological or unique gadgets—supposedly to make life better, but actually they make life more complicated and people less satisfied. This is outlined in a book I have titled, “When More is Less—the paradox of choice” in which having more choices, although valued, actually makes life more confusing, complex, and just plain convoluted.