A friend said something that many people have told me many times in the past “Bhagawad Gita is for old age”. I smile and ask “do we ever get old in that sense”? Those who make that statement never seem to get “old”, i.e. they will probably never touch Bhagawad Gita in their lives. I am not saying that they or anyone should read Gita but I am just amused by their statement or a stereotype as to when one should or should not study something. If one is inclined, age does not matter. Studying Gita needs disciplines and studying Gita cultivate discipline and focus in life. It provides clarity like no other scripture. So, I would rather help children develop love for Gita as early as possible. By not exposing children to Gita we will be depriving them of something amazing. They may not understand now but will hopefully learn to appreciate what is in it and not tell others “why study Gita now”?
Each of us has his/her own reason for why we study Gita, and I have my own. I started studying Gita by accident, as a rebel. I wanted to prove someone wrong, and that his perspective was misplaced. In fact, he challenged me to read Gita once and then come for a discussion with him. After my first read, I was simply bowled over. Why? I have no idea. I went for the discussion but my perspectives had changed. This may not happen to everyone, and each of us will have a different experience. Ever since then I have read Gita 100s of times and each time it provides a new perspective that I had not thought of in the previous readings. So, why I study Gita is for the connect I get every time I read it; it provides a perspective that no other text provides.
I cannot comment on something without having experienced it. For example, if I have not read Harry Potter, how can I ask someone to read it or not read it? I can just talk about why I have not read it [the secret is, I just cannot get into the plot of a novel, and I feel its a waste of time, but those who love it will disagree with me and I respect that]. So, when one has not studied Gita, when they do not know what is in it, then they are simply basing their statement on their pre-programmed notion or stereotype. So, I simply smile at their statement and respect their perspective. Sometimes, I think it rude and a case of ignorance and arrogance (speaking down on something without knowing much about it). I somehow feel that they are as ignorant as a male chauvinist saying “women are weak”. Once a “friend” said “never trust important things with women, they are not just meant to handle serious stuff”, and I was simply appalled by the mean, stupid and stereotyping statement. I felt he knew nothing about women or his perspective about women was distorted; he was probably programmed that way from an young age. So, if someone says “Gita is for old age”, I do not even argue because someone told them that and they are simply parroting it. I smile back because they have an opinion without experience; they are speaking simply out of what they have been programmed. If they say “I have read Gita but did not like it [or did not understand this aspect, or do not agree with it etc]” then there is some room for discussion.
There is no age for studying Gita or anything for that matter. Younger the better. By studying Gita one will not become a sanyaasi. In fact, a good understanding of Gita will make you better in everything that you do. So, please practice it with your kids as early as possible. Avoid making blanket statements without experience 🙂
And then, someone told me “Gayatri is not to be chanted loud. Its a secret, and too holy to be chanted loud”. I am not saying one should chant loud but if you understand the meaning of Gayatri, it does not matter whether you chant it loud or do not chant it at all (i.e. you say it in your mind, in silence). It is not that one “should not” but ones who know “would not” chant aloud because there is no need to. It is like saying “I love you” loudly. It does not matter how loud you can shout “I love you” if you do not feel it from within. There is no need to but if you want to then there is no restriction. So, the idea that it should not be chanted loud because it is holy or that it is a secret is misplaced according to me. It’s depth is beyond comprehension and if given to someone who knows not the value he/she may speak ill or it. In that sense it is a “secret” because it’s true meaning is not superficially available. It has to be contemplated upon, even then it only gets deeper with contemplation. What is important is to understand the meaning of Gayatri and to realize it within. It is called a “secret mantra” and the way it is transferred (covered in a cloth and whispered in the ears) tends to make it even more enigmatic, and intentionally so because human mind seems to value something that is said to be a “secret”.
Yes, any mantra is ideal to be chanted in silence so that you can meditate on it. However, if you do not understand what it means then it means nothing (yes, there are some benefits to chanting it without knowing its meaning but not as effective as if you do), whether you chant it silently (secretively) or loudly. One who understands this will not see the need to chant it loudly because realization is deep within. In fact, in the beginning stages one is encouraged to chant some of the mantras loudly so as to engage all the senses, even though this is not prescribed for Gayatri. Just to re-emphasize, there is no need to chant it loudly because this is a matter of within (andar kee baath hain), however it does not matter even if you want chant it loud.
I will write a separate post on my understanding of Gayatri sometime in the near future.
Hare Krishna 🙂