Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha

sadhu reading

Question: How is a good way to memorize and learn the shlokas of Bhagavad Gita?

Tirtha Maharaj: Well, the best way of reading and studying the Gita we can learn from Chaitanya Charitamrita. You know it is mentioned there when there was one devotee studying the Gita and crying. He held the Gita in his hands but the book was upside-down. And he was crying over this upside-down book. Why? Because he’s got an instruction to read and study. But he could not read. Then what to do? How to study something if you cannot read? Yet, as he was following an instruction, even though the book was upside-down, the result of real study of the Gita – the tears – was there. I think this is the proper way to study the Gita. Even if we don’t understand… Maybe we can read, but what can we understand, what can we grab from this? On what level we can reach these different layers of reality? Where I can join my consciousness, my heart? I think if we have this very humble and very obedient approach full of desires: “Yes, I’d like to have it!” then you will have it. So this is one little answer.

And practically while you cook you can have a little piece of paper with one verse stuck over your pan. And while you are cooking you can memorize. There was one devotee, I’ve heard about him, I think he memorized some eight verses per day. All right, one day you can make it, but what about the next week?

So, if we want to, we shall find the opportunity. If you don’t want, even if the opportunity comes to you, you will pass it by. Of course this is not simply theoretically studying or intellectually capturing, but trying to absorb the meaning, trying to change my mentality, trying to change my vision according to these studies. So, if you ask what the best way of studying the verses of the Gita is, I can quote one answer of Shrila Shridhara Maharaj. He was an eloquent Sanskrit scholar, writing poetry in Sanskrit. He was in full knowledge of all the shastras. And once he said; “Whenever I don’t understand a shloka…” Just imagine, it does not really happen – a fully accomplished pure vaishnava doesn’t understand a shloka – come on! But “In case I don’t understand, then I start to make a puja to that shloka, so that it reveals to me.”

So our approach is not an intellectual game. Our main approach is worship. If we worship and if we serve the ideal – the verse, the sadhu, whatever divine principle we have – all the qualities can come to you. Please, don’t forget about this method. In case you don’t know something or if you are perplexed, try to worship the principle, try to worship the ideal – then it will reveal to you. So, you see, we have a very fine, a very delicate method of understanding – not intellectually, but by worship. So this is my humble suggestion: if you don’t understand, try to worship and then it will come to you.

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