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June - July 2004


The Bhagavad Gita

by Jatindra Saha

Since its inception Bhagavad Gita has become a classic in its own right all over the world. Even those who are not committed Hindu find Bhagavad Gita very much to their liking. It is the only scripture in the whole world that has been translated into many languages by people from all areas of the world. It naturally leads to the questions: 'Why is it so popular? What is Bhagavad Gita?'

According to Aldous Huxley, who was recognised as a great thinker, writer and philosopher of his time, "Gita is one of the clearest and most comprehensive summaries of the Perennial Philosophy ever to have been made". The Gita Philosophy represents Dharma that is based on logic and reason rather than on blind faith or unconditional dictum. In Bhagavad Gita the importance given by Bhagawan Shri Krishna to logic and reason is very great, for He told Arjuna that he must seek salvation through reason (BG 2.49). God has given man the faculties of logic and reason so that he can clearly distinguish true emotion from false emotionalism, faith from fanaticism, imagination from fancy, a true vision from visionary illusion. However, they cannot be arbitrary and open-ended. The principal pre-requisite for a man to be worthy of God is that his reason must be absolutely pure (BG 18.51 and BG 18.57).

To a critical observer the feature of Bhagavad Gita that is readily apparent is that its entire theme has been presented in question and answer form. Why? Because only through asking questions relevant to the subject and getting appropriate answers can one acquire knowledge and remove his ignorance. Belief and faith, by their very nature, are static. They hold back man's quest for knowledge. Therefore, they are natural hindrance to social progress and advance of knowledge and civilization. So, Bhagavad Gita transcends the dogma of blasphemy, for all actions are subject to the Law of Karma, the eternal law that ensures sustenance of righteousness, fairness and justice.

According to Swami Vivekananda, "the Gita is a bouquet composed of beautiful flowers of spiritual truths collected from the Upanishads". Truth presents itself in diverge ways according to different modes of approach. The greatness of Bhagavad Gita lies in the fact that it accepts and respects all of them, for if there is God, He is the creator and author of all of them. If God is believed to be the creator of the universe, He cannot prefer or be partial to one section of His creation. So, the blessed Lord of the Bhagavad Gita has said,

Ye yathaa maam prapadvante taams tathaiva bhajaamyaham,
Mama bartaanu barttante Manushva Paartha sarbbsah (BG 4.11)
Ye'pyanyadevataabhaktaa yajante sraddhyaanvitaah
Te'pi maameva Kaunteya yajanty avidhipurbbakam (BG 9.23)

"In any way that men worship me, in the same way I accept their worship and deliver them" and "O son of Kunti, even those who with complete devotion and honesty worship other form of God, because of their love they worship me". God is always God of love. God cannot be arbitrary or revengeful. The very objective of creation becomes meaningless if God were to take revenge on His own creation. His objective cannot be anything other than every being attaining salvation and coming back home that is his eternal right.

Behind the vast diversity that exists in the world, there is only one Reality - God. He is just and all perfect and cannot prefer some in the creation more than others. He has to be in that way and in no other way. Thus the teachings of Bhagavad Gita are philosophical in content and universal in approach. They transcend the barrier of race, colour and religion. Although it is known to be the most popular of all Hindu scriptures, because of the very nature of its appeal it can be followed by any one.

The eighteen chapters of Bhagavad Gita are a part of the Bhisma Parva in the Great Epic Mahabharata. Whilst the war in Mahabharata may be meant a real war, it is obvious that the war in Bhagavad Gita has a symbolic meaning. The Arjuna and Krishna that we find in the rest of Mahabharata are different beings from the Arjuna and Krishna of Bhagavad Gita. We find in the Gita that there is going to be a great battle for the rule of a Kingdom; and how can we doubt that this is the Kingdom of Heaven, the kingdom of the soul? Are we going to allow the forces of light or the forces of darkness in us to win? God has given us free will. Our destiny depends on the choice we make.

Bhagavad Gita is, above all, a spiritual poem and it must be judged as such; and it must be seen as a whole. The essence of this great poem is the vision of God in all things and of all things in God. The greatness of its teachings is the greatness of the universe. Even as the wonder of stars in the sky reveals itself in the silence of the night, the wonder of this poem likewise reveals itself in the silence of the soul.

In practical terms, however, Bhagavad Gita is a spiritual voyage through the ocean of life. An ocean, by its very nature, is sometimes tranquil and sometimes turbulent with wild waves. A voyage through earthly life is no different and once born there is no escape from it. The good news is Bhagavad Gita has given us the very knowledge that is required to safely negotiate the boat of life through the ocean of earthly sojourn to the final destination.

In other words, Bhagavad Gita has given us Dharma based on spiritual vision. In this vision there is light. Shall we see? This song, the Lord's song, calls us to Love and to Life. Shall we respond to the call? The only way forward is to say, yes.

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