ESSENTIAL CONCEPTS IN BHAGAVAD GITA — Vol. 4: Swami BhoomanandaTirtha; Pub. by Narayanasrama Tapovanam, Venginissery PO., Paralam, Thrissur-680575. Rs. 150.

This volume, fourth in the series by the author, deals with the concepts of Bhakti Yoga expounded in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapters 7 to 12). Topics such as the transcendental dimension of the guru, redirecting attachment, perception of the all-inclusive divinity, Raja Yoga, the soul of rituals, wholesome devotion, the principles underlying the Vibhuti and Viswaroopa of the Lord, and the qualities that make a devotee dear to the Lord are covered in 18 articles. While talking about the guru or the preceptor, the precept of swanubhutipramana is highlighted. The devotee's steady progress towards the goal of God-realisation is brought out succinctly.

How attachment leads to different consequences on different occasions is explained by drawing upon other authoritative sources like Srimad Bhagavata and Kathopanishad, apart from other chapters in the Gita itself.

The non-duality of the Supreme and the illusory nature of the world are projected on the basis of the ninth chapter. The need for transcending the gunas, which, in effect, means freeing oneself from the pulls of maya (illusion), is put across clearly. How, under the overpowering influence of maya, one's mental faculties such as the ability to reason and discern are lost, is explained lucidly, recalling to one's mind Adi Sankara's Maya Panchaka.

The article “How to Live and Leave” epitomises the message of the Gita and, in the process, brings out the universal relevance and applicability of the gospel in terms of time, place and person.

The article that speaks about the dhuma and archiradi margas — the dark and the bright paths the jiva (individual soul) takes after exiting from the body — is noteworthy for the unconventional construct placed on “Uttarayana” and “Dakshinayana”. (The two terms are generally used with reference to the northward and southward movements of the Sun.) The author obliquely refers to the mahavakya in the “Krishna Yajur Veda” by referring to the Sun as the one within the body, namely the Brahman.

On creation

“The mystery of existence”, which is the central piece in this volume, provides an excellent exposition of creation and subsequent permeation by the Brahman. The permeation is aptly illustrated with the house-and-resident analogy. When the house is destroyed, the person residing in it remains unaffected. Likewise, dissolution of the phenomenal world does not affect the Brahman.

In the practice of Bhakti, it is the attitude of the mind that is vital, not the rituals and paraphernalia associated with the expression of it. This is brought home effectively while discussing the oft-cited verse “patram, pushpam, phalam, toyam…

However, there is a reference to sacrifice of cows, an obvious reference to animals, following the Vedic sanction “agnishomiyampasumaalabheta' superseding the general rule, ‘nahanyatsarvaabhutani'.

In dealing with the vibhuti of the Lord, the significant point is that, in any level of creation, excellence is posited by the Lord. This is to pinpoint that there is absolutely no room for egotism. The purpose of Viswarupadarsanam has been explained very convincingly.

One finds some overlapping while referring to the timing of Lord Krishna's discourse to Arjuna. The language is intelligible and the flow of thought logical.

In expounding the subtle and intricate concepts found in the chapters covered in this volume, Bhoomananda Thirtha has lived up to the standards he had set for himself, as evidenced by the earlier volumes. This work deserves to be read and re-read by every serious student of Vedanta.

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