Om Sweet Om

Om Sweet Om


Like Pearls on a Thread

posted by Vineet Chander

pearls_whitebackground.jpg

Bhagavad-gita chapter 7, sloka
7

mattah parataram nanyat
kincid asti dhananjaya
mayi sarvam idam protam
sutre mani-gana iva

O Arjuna, great conqueror of wealth, there is no
truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are
strung on a thread.

gita_modern.jpg

This verse is one of my all-time favorites. I love the imagery
and the aesthetics of it. And I am amazed that in a few short
words, Lord Krishna is able to convey a message that is at once
bold and direct, and yet also layered with subtleties and nuance. I
love the way that the Gita reconciles ideas that – at first blush –
seem to be paradoxical.

Krishna’s claim that there is no truth superior to him, may rub
us the wrong way. It may sound exclusivist, dogmatic, unreasonably
demanding. Many of us have been happily reading through a sacred
wisdom text like the Gita or the Bible, only to come across a God
who hits us with this sort of cosmic “my way or the highway (to
hell?)” …and have checked out of religion entirely as a result of
it. And while Hinduism is often celebrated as promoting pluralism
(and it does), it also has its fair share of religious “truth
claims.”

The brilliance of this verse, to me, is that Krishna doesn’t
stop there. He gives Arjuna (and us) a vivid analogy to appreciate
his claim in a deeper way. To say that God is the thread upon which
we, the individual pearls, are strung, carries with it some profound
implications.

First, it tells us that the Divine doesn’t express his supremacy
through cruel, tyrannical demands for submission. He is
ever-present, providing the foundation upon which we can rest.
There is a comfort there–we are not lonely pieces floating
aimlessly adrift some ocean of meaninglessness. We are supported
and loved, an intrinsic part of the greater whole.

Second, it reminds us that there is a connection between all of
us. As disparate as we might seem, as much as we experience the
world and our journeys as individuals, the Divine is there as the
unifying, common factor. We are people with stories, bound together
in the struggle and pain and joys of love–bound by the Divine
source of us all. And just as the necklace is considered well-made
when the thread tightly binds each pearl to the other, when each
stone is close to the other, our perfection is found in how we can
fill those gaps between us.

Third, it tells us that we are precious. Krishna is intentional
(and maybe a bit humorous) in calling Arjuna by the epithet
Dhananjaya, the “conqueror of wealth.” Could it be that in a
world that puts a premium on wealth – money, cars, and yes, jewels
– the real treasure waiting to be discovered is us, the self within
and the people around us?

Finally, here Lord Krishna displays an attribute of the Divine
that we don’t often see: a sense of humility. We are the shining
pearls, the jewels seen and appreciated by others; he is the
thread, simple and unseen, performing the thankless task of holding
everything together. A beautiful necklace is one in which the
pearls get the praise; nobody compliments the thread. There is
something awesome about a God who is content to remain invisible,
who is glorified by allowing his creation to receive the glory. And
it gives us a hint of how we might aspire to be. It reminds us how
sacred and powerful of a force humility truly is.

Throughout the Gita, Lord Krishna does
this–he plays with our expectations of what God should be, what we
are called to be, what the relationship between the two is. He
turns things on their heads and inspires us to see the world in a
different way. 

Please feel free to share your thoughts. Let me know what you think in the comments section below.



  • Turmarion

    Beautiful! Though I am not Hindu, I have read many Hindu scriptures, including the Bhagavad-Gita (many years ago!) and have always had a great respect for the Hindu tradition and thought. This quotation and discussion are really excellent food for thought and a great way of viewing God. My compliments, and I look forward to more good things on this blog!

  • Nina

    Thank you for this lovely explanation Vineet. I am wondering if you can advise me – I am looking for a short prayer that I can share and write about/analyze using the same kinds of criteria you would when analyzing a poem – it is an assignment in my Introduction to Poetry class. I really love Tagore’s poems, so I was looking for an English translation of a Hindu prayer. It is a quick assignment – only a few pages – so I need a prayer that I can understand without a great deal of research. Can you recommend one? I thought maybe Ohm Saha Naa Vavatu or the one that starts “Jai Ganesh, jai Ganesh, jai Ganesh deva Mata jaki Parvati, pita Mahadeva.” I apologize if this is not the place to be asking-

  • Vishnu

    Well said I like the analogy the thread and the string.
    Reading Bhagavad Gita has open my eyes and awakened me from
    my deep sleep.

  • Vishnu

    sorry folks i mean the thread and the pearls

  • Connie

    I have just begun reading the Gita,it is quite beautiful.I am not Hindu,but the insights you have given me are priceless.Looking forward to more reading your blog every day!

  • Ling

    Your interpretation of this divine verse is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your words and time with us.

  • J S Agrawal

    Wonderful! Dear Vineet, you have explained the Gita Shloka in a very nice & brilliant way, neither too lengthy nor very brief. Thanks a lot.

  • Krishnananda

    what beauty in the words of Sri Krishna!
    staggers the heart

  • sinisa

    Long time ago, i struggled to connect to bodiless, omnipresent GOD. My search was completed with a revelation of Self – Knowledge, a practical way how to worship and connect to the Divine that never stopped embracing me. I just lost a connection to that Divine. After all, as Kabir rightly commented, life is a kind of ‘hide and seek’ game. Than, the books like Gita and New Testament may make a lot more sense. [commentator’s contact information removed as per OSO comment policy]

  • Wilderheart

    Thanks Vineet! Your words on this sacred verse are so profound and reassuring. I could not help my eyes from overflowing. Keep on writing sir. Blessings.

  • Anyah

    This was a light on my path today, thank you.

  • Indu

    Dear Vineet
    .Explanation of the verse helped me understand the Lord to a greater depth , and analysis my situations…Thank you..
    keep penning.
    wishes

  • Jaya

    “our perfection is found in how we can fill those gaps between us.”
    Through those gaps we understand the divine and how he holds us all together.

  • Susan

    Aloha Vineet,
    I started reading your blog a few weeks ago and really enjoy it. I have always been fascinated by Hindu gods and goddesses and your explanations are wonderful. Thanks for taking the time to share your insights I know how much time and effort that takes.
    With love and aloha,
    Susan Beliefnet’s angel blogger

  • Your Name

    Dear Vineet, your story and your interpretation of the thread and the pearls warmed my soul; and made me sure I am on the right path for my life. Many years ago, (before I knew nothing more of the Hindu faith than it’s name), I thought of using pearls to illustrate how a team could work together. My logic was this: each pearl could compliment the other and help the other to shine even brighter. I never put much thought into the thread though, until now. As I reflect on my time as a coach or team manager, I can see how that role was much (for me) like the role of the thread. As a coach I was often a mediator and I resorted to insight often to quell little tempers. I knew how to approach each child in a way that would encourage a good reaction. Your interpretation helps me to grasp how a God could all at once seem insignifiacant yet be so very intricately important, and how a God could be very human as well. Peace be with you, Sincerely, Leah

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