Bhagavad Gita: BHAGAVAD GITA literally means ‘The lord’s Song’, i.e., the philosophical discourse of Lord Krishna to persuade the reluctant Arjuna to fight.
It is the most popular and sacred book of the Hindus and is contained in the Bhisma-Parva of the Mahabharata, the greatest Sanskrit epic.
Various are the praises showered on this work both by Indian and European scholars,. Lokamanya Tilak calls it ‘a most luminous and priceless gem which gives peace to afflicted souls and makes us masters of spiritual wisdom’. Mahaman Malaviyaji sees a unique synthesis of ‘the highest knowledge, the purest love and the most luminous action’ in it. Mahatma Gandhi calls it ‘the universal mother whose doors is wide open to anyone who knocks’, and further says that ‘a true votary of the Gita does not know what disappointment is. He ever dwells in perennial joy and peace that passeth understanding’. The Gita deals with metaphysics, religion and ethics, and has been rightly called the ‘Gospel of Humanity’
The central teaching of the Gita can be beautifully summarized in this sentence of Annie Besant : ‘It is meant to lift the aspirant from the lower levels of renunciation, where objects are renounced, to the loftier heights where desires are dead, and where the Yogi dwells in calm and ceaseless contemplation, while his body and mind are actively employed in discharging the duties that fall to his lot in life.’ The Gita tries to build up a philosophy of Karma based on Jnana and supported by Bhakti in a beautiful manner.
In the beginning we find Arjuna horrified at the thought of that he has to fight with his relatives and friends and he says to Krishna that he can foresee no advantage in killing relatives and he flatly refuses to fight – ‘ I would not like to kill these, even though I may be killed by them’. Krishna then proceeds to instruct him that it is his duty as a prince, as a warrior, as a righteous man to fight against evil and restore peace and order. Some people have tried to read in the Gita a ‘ cult of murder’. But this simply shows to what extent a noble work can be misinterpreted. To fight against evil is the duty of man. To make the situation poignant relatives and beloved friends and revered elders stand on both sides and Arjuna has to vindicate his claim, he has to follow his Svabhava and Svadharma. It is a significant fact that though Lord Krishna in the beginning repeatedly asks Arjuna to fight, in the end when the teaching has been imparted to him, the Lord simply says – ‘ Do as you please’.
WHAT IS BEING?
The fundamental metaphysical teaching of the Gita is that ‘ of the unreal there is no being, and of the real there is no non-being’. The soul is indestructible ( avinashi ), eternal ( nitya ), unborn ( aja ), undiminishing ( avyaya ), unmanifest ( avyakta ), all-pervasive ( sarva-gata ), immovable ( achala ), ancient ( sanatana ), unthinkable ( achintya ), and immutable ( avikarya ). Only bodies are destroyed, not the soul. It is neither born nor does it die. It is immortal and everlasting. Not being subject to birth and death, it cannot perish alone with the body. Just as a person casts off worn-out garments and puts on the new ones, so does the soul cast off worn-out bodies and enters into others bodies that are new. The infinite underlines and animates all finite existences, and the soul being essentially one with it, is not affected by birth and death, by growth and decay, by finitude or change, ‘even though our body be “dust returning unto dust”.’ He who sees the Ultimate Reality seated equally in all beings and unperishing within the perishing, sees truly.
What is yoga?
The Gita represents a unique synthesis of Action, Devotion and Knowledge. Man is a complex of intellect, will and emotion; he is a being who thinks wills and feels. Intellect has given rise to the philosophy of Knowledge; will to the philosophy of Action; and emotion to the philosophy of Devotion. Modern psychology teaches us that these three aspects of mind are distinguishable only in though and not divisible in reality. There is no watertight division separating one from the rest. The teaching of the Gita is in keeping with this view. To quote Dr. S. Radhakrishnan : ‘The Absolute reveals itself to those seeking for knowledge as the Eternal Light, clear and rediant as the sun at noon-day ; to those struggling for virtue as the Eternal Righteousness, steadfast and impartial ; and to those emotionally inclined as Eternal Love and Beauty of Holiness’. Different people attain the same goal of salvation by these three different paths of knowledge, action and devotion.
All these three ultimately stand synthesized. This synthesis is called ‘Yoga’. The literal meaning of the word is union, i.e., of the individual with the Absolute. It means equanimity or balance of mind ( samatva ). It means the higher perspective of action which come through detachment ( karmasu kaushalam ). The yogi is the ideal ascetic who curbs his passions and maintains calmness in cold and heat , in joy and sorrow, in honour and dishonor. ‘ As a lamp flickers not in a windless place, that is the simile for the Yogi who curbs his thoughts and yields himself entirely to absorption’. We find the following beautiful description of Yoga : ‘ Where seeing the self by the self, one is satisfied in oneself ; where one experiences the absolute bliss , known only to higher reason, but ever beyond the senses, and standing where one swerves not from the truth ; where no other gain is considered greater, and where one is not moved by the greatest pain – that sate free from misery is Yoga’. A yogi is Sthita-prajna – one firmly rooted in higher reason and unmoved by the pairs of opposites. He attains to the highest state of Brahman ( Brahmi-sthiti ), where he is never bewildered ( nainam prapya vimu hyati ) and from which he never falls down ( yad gatva na nivartante ).
What is Jnana?
This Yoga is essentially and predominately the path of knowledge. The Yogi’s ideal is self-realization which cannot be attained without knowledge. Even the devotees are granted knowledge by the Lord so that they may realize the goal. Yoga, bereft of knowledge, is an impossibility. We may weaken the power of the senses by fasting and abstaining from necessities, but unless we rise above the relish and the desire, the psychological attachment to the sense-objects, we are not true yogis. And this relish can go away only with the rise of true knowledge. How high the Gita places knowledge can be seen from the following : ‘Even the most sinful man can cross over the ocean of Samsara by means of the boat of knowledge alone. As a fire well-kindled reduces fuel to ashes, so the fire of knowledge reduces all actions to ashes. The culmination of action is in knowledge. Having obtained knowledge, one soon embraces peace. There is nothing purer than knowledge’. The knower is identified by the Lord with own self.