Gita Jayanti – Founder’s Global Vision
In telling the Singapore Gita Jayanti’s history, I cannot avoid giving a personal account of MotherGita’s great impact in my own life. That was what inspired me to establish it as an annual event inSingapore (and now in Malaysia as well). I sincerely hope to see it soon become the most important global spiritual event, observed by every single Hindu and sincere spiritual seeker on the planet.
We can all see that secular education which has no spirituality is ruining the fabric of civilization, hence the desperate need for non-sectarian, non-fanatic spiritual education. As it is said in the Bhagavad Gita As It Is, “Religion without philosophy is mere sentiment…. and leads to fanaticism.”I was born and brought up as a typical non-religious third-generation Singaporean. When I first came into contact with the Holy Bhagavad Gita I was 23 and a student of law in London, having completed National Service. I really, really wish that I had known it since I was five, for I would have been saved so much grief and suffering.
I can honestly describe myself then as being merely a‘form-filling’ (and beef-eating) ‘Hindu’, meaning that I always wrote ‘Hindu’ when filling up forms simply because I had been told that was our religion, but in fact I had no idea what ‘Hindu’ meant at all. I had never been taught anything about our great scriptures as my well-educated parents thought there was no need of it, although they did believe in God.
I recall the first time that I went to a temple without having been dragged there by my parents was when I was 18. It was only because a Spanish friend on holiday here insisted on visiting a Hindu temple. I was aghast for I did not know what to say or do if I entered a temple! I made an SOS call to my dear friend’s mother, Mrs Ramanujan and asked her to please show us around the Perumal temple, which her father had helped develop.
Luckily she agreed. I felt awkward upon arriving there but luckily she was able to explain some things to our guest. I knew more about Christianity than about Hinduism having studied all my life in ACS, a Christian mission school!It was only because of my father’s strong insistence and repeated requests, that I ‘condescended’ to read the Bhagavad Gita As It Is by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
He [my dear father] used to telephone me every day in London asking me to please read the Gita. When I challenged him asking why I should when I was so busy with studies, he said he just found out about the mystery and wisdom of the Gita and he realized that he had failed in his duty as a father, to give me not only material education but spiritual education as well, without which, life would be miserable. Considering that he was a very intelligent, successful professional, I agreed to read it for 30 minutes every night before I go to sleep,but only on condition that he stop harassing me about it! He agreed.
I could not believe the impact it had on me that first night itself. I simply could not put it down - it was wonderful, soul-stirring – absolutely scientific, full of profound wisdom, sound logic, amazing philosophy and direct information about God given by the Lord Himself. I never knew Hindus had such wonderful scriptures. I had expected to find fanatic, narrow-minded and outdated information in it, because I thought all religious people were zealots and somewhat out of touch with reality.
However I was astounded at the relevance it had in my life. I never knew that spirituality had a scientific side to it that could be taught objectively. At once the Gita brought me to levels of peace and introspection that I had never known before. I felt I had found just what I needed, although I did not even know that I should have been looking for it. Suddenly, life had great meaning and purpose. God Himself had spoken.
I have never been able to give up the Gita ever since that day 16 years ago. So great was my interest in it and my natural ability to communicate it to others that my college lecturers and my parents eventually encouraged me to dedicate my life to teaching it. According to the Gita, Brahmanas (priests/religious teachers) are also needed in every human society, as are Kshatriyas(Administrators/Leaders/Military), Vaishyas (merchants) and Shudras (labourers). It is just another job – as the Lord says in Gita’s 18th chapter: “Every man can become perfect by doing his own work…and… by worship of the Lord who is the source of all beings..”
I had always loved teaching,and here was a subject the world really needed. Only after I took up this vocation did I remember my grandmother’s prediction when I was 18: - she had told me that one day I would have to teach the Bhagavad Gita all over the world… because she said she had been praying to Lord Krishna since the 1940s to give her a child or a grandchild who would teach His message. It did not mean anything to me then because I did not even know what ‘Gita’ was. She is known as Swami Brahma- Jnaana-Ananda, now 93, a sannyasi disciple of the late HH Swami Sivananda and she lives in Rishikesh, India, at the Divine Life Society HQ.My realization is that the Gita is the Science of How To Become Happy in every sense.
I strongly feel that the non-sectarian and very scientific teachings of the Gita must be made common knowledge to all human beings, just as basic maths and science are taught everywhere. Its universal teachings can help everyone become more peaceful and happy and to begin their spiritual journey towards moksha and love of God. I think it is shameful that only about 1 in a 100 educated Hindus whom I may meet these days is able to quote or explain anything from the Gita, what to speak of understand it or practise its tenets in their daily lives. When I became more serious to understand the original Sanskrit verses of the Gita, my father taught me how to pronounce the slokas (verses) correctly, reading from Romanized Sanskrit. I became fascinated by this, because although it looks like English, it had every single Sanskrit sound without any loss.
As I studied it more deeply, I began to see various patterns emerging. I also observed the changes taking place in my own tongue control, sharpness of hearing and tremendously increased memory. I saw that anyone could learn to pronounce it correctly without having to learn all the 400-odd alphabets in Devanagari.In my eagerness to share it with others who were not so interested in Sanskrit, I had some insights by the mercy of Sri Guru and Sri Krishna and I began to develop a simplified method of teaching this language which is commonly thought of as difficult. It is a very unique and unorthodox method, but the fact is, it works. I can teach people of all ages, with no Indian language background, how to chant Sanskrit verses very accurately within just one workshop of about 4 hours. Conventionally, it takes 6 months to accomplish.