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Understanding Rituals

Understanding Rituals

The whole chapter reveals this single secret, that is—the Cosmic energy, the whole Universe is intelligence. It responds to our thoughts, again and again. It answers our dreams, our thoughts and our very consciousness.

Again and again Kṛṣṇa talks about the correct understanding and context of rituals and sacrifices to God. We see many people going to the temple. They take one hundred and one coconuts and break them in front of the deity. In the Tirupati temple of Lord Venkaṭeśvara (incarnation of Śrī Viṣṇu), people offer their hair as a sacrifice. If we offer hair and pray and come back home, nothing is going to happen.

When we offer something, it represents the surrender of our ego. When we sacrifice our hair in Tirupati, we surrender our ego to Lord Venkaṭeśvara. When we break a coconut, the shell of the ego is broken into pieces. But what generally happens? When we do some sacrifice, we think we did something great. All the sacrifices that we make are only to boost our ego. Listen, if a sacrifice is made with complete gratitude and surrender, it is an enriching sacrifice.

Sacrificing in temples has become a two-way business. People who act out of ego make a business deal with God, ‘I will donate so much money for the temple; leave one spot for me in heaven.’ Another class of people sit outside the temple and make money from sacrifices. People ask me, ‘Are sacrifices wrong? Is worship and sacrifice for a particular deity wrong?’ No, it is not wrong; but understand that we are not worshipping or sacrificing to that one particular deity. We must go beyond that. When we make a sacrifice from our being, we merge with the Existential energy. Every deity will then appear the same.

Everything is Kṛṣṇa or Rama, Śiva or Buddha. This is what Kṛṣṇa says here. He is the only enjoyer of all sacrifices. When we understand His transcendental nature in everything around us, any small thing that we give from our whole being to even a rock becomes a sacrifice. That rock need not be carved into a statue of Kṛṣṇa or Śiva. We need not name it because we see the energy behind that rock.

These two verses must be carefully understood. If not, they can be conveniently used as a justification to do whatever one wants. See, Kṛṣṇa does not give a license to do whatever we want here.

If we are classifying an action as good, bad, saintly or sinful based on guidelines laid down by society or someone else, then be very clear we operate at the conscience level. No action is good or bad in itself. The entire situation, the whole context should be considered. The act may remain the same; however, the situation and the context might have completely changed.

A small story:

There was a snake that lived in a village. It bit the villagers  even if they didn’t disturb it. Nobody dared to go close to  it. The entire area where it used to stay was feared. Nobody  entered that area.  One day a monk passed by that village and saw that the  villagers did not approach that area. On enquiring, he  understood the situation. He asked the snake, ‘Why do you  bite everyone? What do you gain from being so violent?  Everyone fears you!’  On listening to the monk’s words, the snake promised he  would mend his ways from that day onwards. Days passed  by. Slowly, there was a change in the scene in the village.  The snake stopped bothering everyone. It lay quietly in one  place. People started to test it by poking it with a stick to  confirm that the snake had really softened up. The snake  never reacted. They now started torturing the snake. Kids from the nearby village threw stones at it. They ill-treated the snake and  played with it. The snake quietly allowed all of this without  uttering a word. Soon, the snake was reduced to almost a  pulp and lost all life and vigor.  After a few months, the monk once again passed by that  village. He was shocked to see the condition of the snake.  He enquired what happened and the snake told him all that  had happened.  The monk asked, ‘I told you only not to bite; did I tell you  not to hiss?’ You see, this is what happens when we operate from our conscience,  from the wrong context. Because somebody said something, if we apply it  blindly without considering the present situation and context. We invite  trouble for ourselves. In this case, the monk’s advice was taken literally and the snake ended up suffering. 

There is a deeper layer of operation called Consciousness. In Consciousness, we become spontaneous. When consciousness flowers, we know what is the context, what needs to be done at that point in time. When this happens, whatever is done is for the good of everyone. Even if an action seems to violate the norms of society, it is always for the good of humanity. Kṛṣṇa killing demons may appear like the act of a criminal. Yet He established truthfulness and justice by doing it.

Please listen. When devotion matures, consciousness flowers. Devotion may seem different from knowledge when it is not ripe. Kṛṣṇa says that His devotee never perishes. Devotion is not simply offering worship daily to Kṛṣṇa’s photo, lighting camphor, lamps and offering garlands. When one is a true devotee of Kṛṣṇa, he becomes Kṛṣṇa. He experiences Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The ultimate consciousness is where no good, bad, evil or virtue exists.

Devotion, knowledge and wisdom appear to be different when they are not ripe. When they mature, they become the same. One experiences true wisdom at the peak of devotion or peak of knowledge.

Let me tell you about Triveni Sangam, what is called Prayag in India. It is a confluence of three sacred rivers—Gaṇgā, Yamunā and Sarasvatī, near the city of Allahabad. While Gaṇgā and Yamunā are visible, the third, Sarasvatī flows underground and becomes visible only at the point of merging. Gaṇgā is the river of Lord Śiva and stands for knowledge or jñāna. All Śiva temples are on the banks of river Gaṇgā. Yamunā is the river of Lord Kṛṣṇa and stands for devotion or bhakti. All Kṛṣṇa temples are on the banks of river Yamunā. When Gaṇgā and Yamuna merge, when knowledge and devotion merge, Sarasvatī or wisdom automatically happens! Unless this merging happens, we cannot see or experience wisdom. That is why Sarasvatī remains hidden until the point of merging!

From Bhagawad Gita Decoded - Page 710


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