On the Winter Solstice and the Gita

by Aranyakananda

As usual lately, I am a little late to the party on certain subjects when it comes to blogging. But yesterday was the Winter Solstice. The beginning of winter, yet it marks the day when daylight hours begins to grow longer and longer. It is a signpost that spring is nigh. Usually when we think of winter we think of death, and a long wait until we see signs of rebirth and feel warmth. But as we can see, that “rebirth” is already imminent at the very beginning of the “death”.

I find this in and of itself to be a contradiction worthy of meditation. The beginning of something contained within the end of something else. Shiva’s dance plays out all throughout this auspicious day, no doubt.

My Gita discussion group in the two Sundays straddling the Solstice (namely, today and last Sunday) covered Chapter 8, verses 17-19 and presumably 20-22 (I did not make it today). Verses in which Krishna expounds the night and day of Brahma to Arjuna. I am studying Paramahansa Yogananda’s “God Talks With Arjuna”. In verses 17-19, Bhagavan Krishna tells Arjuna:

17 “They are true knowers of “day” and “night” who understand the Day of Brahma, which endures for a thousand cycles (yugas), and the Night of Brahma, which also endures for a thousand cycles.”

18 “At the dawn of Brahma’s Day, all creation, reborn, emerges from the state of non-manifestation; at the dusk of Brahma’s Night all creation sinks into the sleep of non-manifestation.”

19 “Again and again, O son of Pritha (Arjuna), the same throng of men helplessly take rebirth. Their series of incarnations ceases at the coming of Night, and then reappears at the dawn of Day.”

Creation, in Hinduism is cyclical. There is no end, necessarily, except for the cycle of the absorption and re-emergence of creation into and out from its source. Verse 19 tells us that no matter how many cycles it takes, and no matter how much time creation lays dormant, the soul will always resume on its own particular path where it “left off”. But in between, that is not lost time. We may feel like we are starting over each spring when “life” comes back into bloom. But we are not. And we are not “carrying on where we left off” each spring either. Life goes on no matter the season. Vaisnavs say that it is during this time that Vishna withdraws, resting on Adishesha, keeping all in a suspended state, a state of celestial cryogenics if you will. And so it is with these periods of Universal non-manifestation.

20 “But transcending the unmanifested (states of phenomenal being) there exists the true Unmanifested, the Immutable, the Absolute, which remains untouched by the cycles of cosmic dissolution.”

21 “The aforesaid Unmanifested, the Immutable Absolute, is thus called the Supreme Goal. Those who attain it, My highest state, Undergo no more rebirth.”

22 “By singlehearted devotion, O son of Pritha (Arjuna), that Supreme Unmanifested is reached. He alone, the Omnipresent, is the Abode of all creatures.”

A microcosm of the cycle of creation at large described above, of course is the end of the continual re-emergence of the individual soul in manifest form. The “end” of any cycle of creation is but the root – the ground floor – of the next, just as the end of any life – or rather the state which one finds oneself in due to the accumulated karmas of one’s lifetime – is the root of the next.

Happy Winter Solstice. May you not lay dormant waiting for rebirth and renewal. May you always be aware (Omniscient) that their opportunity are ever near (Omnipresent).

Jai Hari Aum

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