Dr Santosh Kumar Mohapatra*
Every religion has its own scripture and is sacred and we pay our obeisance to all such scriptures and respect sentiments of all religious community. However, here we have made discussion on “The Bhagavad Gita” which is simple spelled as Gita and is considered to be one of the most sacred and popular religious scriptures of Hinduism which has worldwide acclamation. It is literally translated as the “Song of God”, is a part of the gigantic Indian epic, the Mahabharata, a story of the enmity and consequent war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The Gita, as it is also called, enjoys a lofty position in India’s culture and philosophical milieu. This lustrous chronicle is regarded as the premier philosophy in the Hindu pantheon. Everyone reading the Bhagavad Gita finds in it a part which he or she can completely identify with, in his or her own personal life. All of us go through a predicament, gridlock and stalemate at some point of time or the other. This is where the Gita comes to our aid, guiding us to do what is right and prevent us from treading a flawed path or committing any sin. The Bhagavad-Gita is such a didactic and moralistic guide for anyone. It provides the basic answers that most people have about life, and the universal spiritual truths that can be used by anyone, anywhere, and at any time in history. In this way, it is enduring and timeless.
Mythological backdrop of Bhagavad Gita
Gita preaches that war is not solution and it should be avoided at any cost. But if it could not be avoided, then one should perform its role as a warrior. The Bhagavad Gita starts with a scene on the battle front at Kurukshetra, wherein Arjun (or Paarth as he is also referred to) prepares to face the Kauravas. As with most great chronicles, there is some perplexity as to the exact dates of the Kurukshetra war. But many experts believe that the Lord narrated the Bhagavad Gita in 3102 B.C., just before the battle commenced. This means that the war should have taken place about 2500 years before the Buddha and 3000 years before Jesus Christ descended on this earth. Lord Krishna Himself becomes charioteer of Arjuna (hence the name Paarthsaarathi) and drives his chariot) into the battlefield. On seeing his own family, the legendary Bhishma Pitaamah and his Guru, Acharya Drona on the other side of the battlefield, Arjun is beleaguered, inundated by waves of sadness, anxiety and emotion. He is convinced that he would be committing a reprehensible and unpardonable sin by slaying his own kith and kin. Arjun suddenly feels, frail, shabby and wobbly and sprawls down on the chariot, laying down his bow and arrow. He proclaims to Krishna that he would not be well to wage war against his own relatives and requests him to take him away from the battlefield.
When Arjun’s confidence takes a downward plunge and reaches subterranean level on the battlefield, Krishna decides to make him understand the real meaning of life. Krishna asks Arjun to shed his anxiety and caginess that encumber his duty on the battlefront and co-operate to reinstate the dharmic balance of the universe. Krishna warns him that if he were to leave the battlefield at this point of time, he would fail despondently, desolately in his duties, throwing the entire cosmos out of balance, obscuring and exterminating all good from the face of the earth. Krishna takes a Vishwaroopa (massive avatar) and reveals Himself as but one aspect of the Supreme Mahavishnu. He shows him the cycle of life and how souls live and die and pass through the various stages between the processes, while in this mortal world.
Krishna further inspires Arjun by telling him to go ahead, discharge his duty as a Kshatriya (warrior) and fight to obliterate, devastate wrongdoers without having abhorrence for them in his heart. Krishna explains about Ananta Prakriya – about how the process of creation is never-ending and continues as a cycle in between birth and death. The human soul (Jeevatma), which is but a part of the Universal Soul (Paramatma), is not affected by death and so, cannot actually be exterminated. Hence, Krishna says, it is only right action, without apprehension, worry about the result, which is truly important to achieve in life. As the Bhagavad Gita unfolds further, it adheres to the above principle all through.
Impact of the Bhagavad Gita Worldwide
The Bhagavad Gita has had and continues to wield a great influence on different types of people from several cultures around the globe. The Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, stated that the Gita was a call to humanity as a whole, to surrender mind, body and soul to purity. He also stated that, “When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-Gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day.”
Sri Aurobindo averred that the Bhagavad Gita always had a new message for people of any age, from any part of civilization. Albert Einstein stated that he was so deeply moved by the Gita that once he started contemplating on how God went about creating the universe, he found everything else false and of no consequence. Dr. Albert Schweizer said that the Gita is so profound that it deeply influences the whole spirit of mankind by its attitude of devotion to God. Aldous Huxley stated that the Bhagavad Gita is the most complete statement of perennial philosophy.
What makes the Gita so special?
The perspective taken in this discussion on the Bhagavad Gita is that it is universal and belongs to all humankind. The Bhagavad Gita is one of the central teachings of Sanatan Dharma, today often called Hinduism. It has its setting in Indian history, culture and religion of a particular era and with ongoing influences of Indian religious history. Bhagavad Gita was a timeless, universal devotional text that looked beyond all differences and which was understandable and easily practiced by the simplest, every common person. The main highlight of the Krishna Avatar is the imparting of the Bhagavad Gita teachings to Arjun, making not only Arjun, but also the whole world, realize the true nature of God and the higher Self. Lord Sri Krishna, in his exposition of the Gita, explains to Arjun the yogic aspects of Bhakti (devotion), Karma (action), Gyana (knowledge) and Dhyana (meditation). The whole essence of the Bhagavad Gita lies in the various types and theories of Dharma it expounds.
However, what makes the Gita stand out, as a supremely sparkling gem is that it adopts a panentheistic approach rather than a pantheistic one? While Pantheism is the belief that the Universe (or Nature as the totality of everything) is identical with divinity, or that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent God, Panentheism means the belief or doctrine that God is greater than the universe and includes and interpenetrates it. This means, that the Gita goes one-step ahead and asserts that God is everything, plus something more that we normally do not perceive. The above notwithstanding, the Gita can also be viewed as being one of the most powerful expressions of pantheism among the scriptures of the world. This aspect acknowledges the presence of God residing in everything and in all things and all beings – good and evil, darkness and light and so on. Not only that, it says that God is affected by both crass and subtle changes in the Universe, and so evolves with the evolution in the Universe as well.
Relevance of Bhagavad Gita in Modern Life
One may wonder what is the use of studying Bhagavad Gita in the present day. How relevant is it to modern life? In addition, what value does it add to one’s life? But its relevance in present age is immense. Life today is filled with anxiety, uncertainty and sorrow. Rampant consumerism as an offshoot of neo-liberalism has whetted the greed, profiteering nature of human being. An individual has now fallen out of tune both with himself and with his surroundings. As a result, he experiences disharmony, both within and without. While he fails to find true happiness within himself, he also fails to make his family and friends’ happy.
The present generation of youth who are pursuing their studies does not seem to have the time for anything at all. They often tend to fall prey to various distractions that life presents before them. Working people are constantly caught up with trying to earn more money in order to provide their family and children with more luxuries and comforts. In this rat race, they lose themselves and their identities even as living beings, leave alone becoming higher entities! Bhagavad Gita teaches man to free himself of his fetters, while being very much in Samsara, realize the actual nature of his Self and go beyond the human limitations of sorrow, ageing and death. The Bhagavad Gita teaches one to be detached from the negative aspects of Samsara, to be ever grateful to the Lord for having given him so much good and to do a great deal of good unto others.
Duty is God: Supreme Message of the Bhagavad Gita
Fifty years ago in this country of the USA, hardly anyone spoke of karma, unless they were students of yoga or Eastern philosophy. Now everyone talks of karma, it is a part of the vocabulary, whether they really understand it or not. But the point is, where do you think that came from? How do you think they started to know about karma, or yoga for that matter, except for the fact that the teachings of the East and yoga, which are centered around the Bhagavad Gita, continued to spread throughout the West
The Gita takes into consideration all practical aspects of life. The various Yogas that Krishna propounds in the Bhagavad Gita truly capture the essence of life itself. Additionally, the various Yogas that Krishna propounds in the Bhagavad Gita truly capture the essence of life itself, Krishna talks of universal harmony and strict, unflinching adherence towards duty. Lord Krishna elucidates that man never should neglect his duties in Samsara, just because he wants to follow the tenets of the Yoga. This philosophy assumes gargantuan importance in present era where delay, dithering, procrastination and dereliction of duty are rampant and not considered as a sin.
Karma Yoga vs Fatalism
Though He talks about many other types of yoga, usually many people leave everything to destiny without doing their duty properly. Even when some fail to get desired result, they commit grievous blunder of suicide or blame their fate and become fatalist. Even some people surrender before God but without taking any effort. But Karma Yoga in Gita emphasises on action rather than relying on fate or destiny. Karma means ‘action’. In this sense, it implies the discharging of one’s duties, selflessly, without concentrating on the result of the action. In Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna speaks entirely on the aspect of Karma Yoga. “Karmanyeyvaadhikaarastey Maa Phaleshu Kadaachana Maa Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani”. Krishna asks one to do his duty, being detached about the final outcome. He advises against the doing of a thing, worrying only about the end. Instead, He says, one should get pleasure from the whole journey of getting to the end.
Krishna advises one to continue doing Karma, dedicating that action itself as a prayer to the Divine. He says that results could turn out to be any one of three categories – those that are originally intended to get, those that are the opposite of what is intended and the third variety is a mixture of both the first and second types. Involving oneself totally in one’s activities, dedicating all actions to God, completing one’s tasks to perfection and submitting them in the name of God, is itself a pathway to moksha, says Sri Krishna. He says that selfless social service is one of the easiest ways to attain the Supreme, but Krishna says, even dedicating one’s being to one’s profession is a way to salvation. Working selflessly, without expecting any outcome, purifies one’s mind, gradually changing him, making him surrender his entire work at the Lord’s Lotus Feet.
Imperative of Sublimating Ego
The various Yogas that Krishna propounds in the Bhagavad Gita truly capture the essence of life itself. It preaches to sublimate one’s ego, smugness, self-aggrandizement. Sri Krishna states that one should try to go beyond the limitations of the temporal ego and identify themselves with ‘The One Self’ or the Atman, thereby attaining true enlightenment. Not only Gita, but all religious scripture preaches that ego should be annihilated as it is ego, haughtiness, self -aggrandizement that has caused downfall of many powerful person. The glaring example is extermination of Kauravas, Ravan, Bali, Kansha, Mahishasura etc .
In present society most of politicians are engrossed with self-aggrandizement rather than serving poor-downtrodden. History reveals that, it is ego, obduracy of many head of state, which has triggered war leading to decimation of thousands of people. Even the ego of many head of institution, administrator stands as a great impediment to progress, prosperity of institutions, which they lead. Many institutions have collapsed in present era because egoistic, stubborn nature of its owner or chief executive to solve the labour problem amicable. Ego, superciliousness precludes top people planners/administrators to mix with poor and vulnerable section of society, thereby failing to understand the ground reality. That result in to formulation of flawed polices as we are witnessing today all over the world. The basic ingredient of a quality leader is power to sublimate one’s ego, which is rare today.
Given that the nature of this material world places all of us, at least to some extent, in the context of “I and mine,” we need to understand how to correct this consciousness. “So one must also give up this misconception of “I” by practicing the way of devotional service or firmly being situated in the transcendental loving service of the Lord…..Shrimad Bhagavatam and, primarily, the Bhagavad Gita are both meant for delivering a person from the misconception of “I” and “mine
Material Economics vs. Spiritual Economics
All living beings are spiritual in nature and are complete with all spiritual qualities. However, when they are born into the material realm, identify with the material coverings of the material body and mind. The material economic system presently used is so arranged as to aid those in material consciousness in their development of the material conception of life. But Gita, on the other hand, advocates Spiritual Economics. Spiritual Economics refers to an economic system based upon the Bhagavad Gita and as such offers an economic system for a society established in transcendence.
Material economics treats objects of desire are always separate, creating consciousness of scarcity. Spiritual Economics, on the other hand, treats objects of desire are never separated, creates feeling of wholeness. While material Economics focuses on self, Spiritual Economics Focuses on others. People are forced to “get” as part of material Economics but People are free to give as part of Spiritual Economics. While material economics triggers competition, greed, avarice, graft, crime, and corruption as desirable means for success, Spiritual Economics requires and promotes cooperation with others; eliminates motive for greed, crime, avarice, etc. While material economics encourages maximum consumption, exploitation of the earth’s resources, exploitation and slavery of others; the strong and wealthy exploit the weak and unable, Spiritual Economics encourages minimum consumption and optimum use of the earth’s resources and provides no impetus for exploitation of people; creates a strong social security system for all. While material economics gives the notion that money can solve all problems; also that problems exist outside of the self, Spiritual Economics helps to understand that problems are opportunities for spiritual growth and development.
In present age, when spirituality is steadily on the decline on a global scale and materialism rules the roost, most people doubt the efficacy of teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. However, this is absolutely wrong and self-defeating. A deep study of the Gita gives rise in the reader, a spirit of surrender, creating within him an eternal source of joy, happiness and peace. Gita is necessary for us to live our life more effectively. Gita is an incredible book because of its intrinsic value in solving the fundamental human problem. It shows us a way to live our life effectively. It will continue to bless people of the past, present and posterity, the only thing is that, one has to choose to expose oneself to it.
In the present milieu replete with jealousy, ego greed and vindictiveness, what man needs is someone who can teach him, train his mind, bring it under his control and get him back to his higher ‘Self’. The Gita is the real scripture that can extricate the human being from this quagmire. Reading even just one verse each day and reflecting on it helps one see exactly how precious this human birth is and how one can use it to immensely benefit both himself and others. Bhagavad Gita enables us to realize our inner potential and guides us to become honest, simple and responsible person. In brief, Gita helps us to become a good human being leading a sensible, meaningful and purposeful life.
*The author is an Odisha-based eminent columnist/economist and social thinker. He can be reached through e-mail at [email protected]
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of Sambad English.