The philosophy contained in the pages of the Bhagavad Gita is considered relevant and essential to our understanding of ourselves even in the western world. Leading business schools in the USA such as Kellogg have included the Bhagavad Gita as an elective subject in their curriculum. For thousands of years, the Bhagavad Gita has inspired millions of readers. Here’s what some of the greats have to say in praise of this venerable scripture.
J. Robert Oppenheimer, American physicist and director of the Manhattan Project, who developed the first nuclear bomb, learned Sanskrit in 1933 and read the Bhagavad Gita in the original, citing it later as one of the most influential books to shape his philosophy of life. Upon witnessing the world’s first nuclear test in 1945, he later said he had thought of the quotation “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”, (verse 32 from Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita).
“When I read the Bhagavad-Gita and reflect about how God created this universe everything else seems so superfluous.” ~ Albert Einstein
“The Bhagavad-Gita has a profound influence on the spirit of mankind by its devotion to God which is manifested by actions.” ~ Dr Albert Schweitzer
“The Bhagavad-Gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution of endowing value to mankind. It is one of the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed; hence its enduring value is subject not only to India but to all of humanity.” ~ Aldous Huxley
“The Bhagavad-Gita is a true scripture of the human race a living creation rather than a book, with a new message for every age and a new meaning for every civilization.” ~ Sri Aurobindo
“The idea that man is like unto an inverted tree seems to have been current in by gone ages. The link with Vedic conceptions is provided by Plato in his Timeous in which it states…” behold, we are not an earthly but a heavenly plant.” ~ Carl Jung
“In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seems puny and trivial.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
“The marvel of the Bhagavad-Gita is its truly beautiful revelation of life’s wisdom which enables philosophy to blossom into religion.” ~ Herman Hesse
“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.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
“The Bhagavad-Gita deals essentially with the spiritual foundation of human existence. It is a call of action to meet the obligations and duties of life; yet keeping in view the spiritual nature and grander purpose of the universe.” ~ Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru
“The Bhagavad-Gita is an empire of thought and in its philosophical teachings Krishna has all the attributes of the full-fledged monotheistic deity and at the same time the attributes of the Upanisadic absolute.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“In order to approach a creation as sublime as the Bhagavad-Gita with full understanding it is necessary to attune our soul to it.” ~ Rudolph Steiner
Another concern expressed by aspiring seekers is that it is too deep in philosophy and metaphysical theories that understanding is too difficult for a common person like me! It is true that you need coaching and assistance of a learned Guru to understanding the sublime meaning hidden in the texts of Bhagavad Gita. It is a process and one need to practice it by reading or listening for a long time to get a reasonable understanding of the holy text. At the same time one can start getting the benefits of Gita even before you start understanding the inner meaning of the book. There is a story that is being circulated in the internet which provides an insight into this theory.
An old Farmer lived on a farm in the mountains with his young grandson. Each morning Grandpa was up early sitting at the kitchen table reading his Bhagavad Gita. His grandson wanted to be just like him and tried to imitate him in every way he could. One day the grandson asked, “Grandpa! I try to read the Bhagavad Gita just like you but I don’t understand it, and what I do understand I forget as soon as I close the book. What good does reading the Bhagavad Gita do?” The Grandfather quietly turned from putting coal in the stove and replied, “Take this coal basket down to the river and bring me back a basket of water.” The boy did as he was told, but all the water leaked out before he got back to the house. The grandfather laughed and said, “You’ll have to move a little faster next time,” and sent him back to the river with the basket to try again. This time the boy ran faster, but again the basket was empty before he returned home. Out of breath, he told his grandfather that it was impossible to carry water in a basket, and he went to get a bucket instead. The old man said, “I don’t want a bucket of water; I want a basket of water. You’re just not trying hard enough,” and he went out the door to watch the boy try again.
At this point, the boy knew it was impossible, but he wanted to show his grandfather that even if he ran as fast as he could, the water would leak out before he got back to the house. The boy again dipped the basket into river and ran hard, but when he reached his grandfather the basket was again empty. Out of breath, he said, “See Grandpa, it’s useless!” “So you think it is useless?” The old man said, “Look at the basket.” The boy looked at the basket and for the first time realized that the basket was different. It had been transformed from a dirty old coal basket and was now clean, inside and out. “Son, that’s what happens when you read the Bhagavad Gita. You might not understand or remember everything, but when you read it, you will be changed, inside and out. That is the work of Krishna in our lives.”
Whether you understand it or not, regular reading of Gita can bring tremendous change in your life for the better, as long as you read it correctly, clearly and with total devotion and involvement.
As mentioned earlier, Bhagavad Gita can be studied from many different angles and perspectives. It can be studied as a great Religious scripture or a philosophical treatise. It is one of the best books on psychology besides providing many useful tips on health sciences. You can study Gita from the historical perspective or as a literary text. And, of course, it offers great many ideas on Management and human behaviour. Let us briefly try to understand each of these perspectives.
As a religious text, Gita is considered as part of the “Prasthana Traya”, the top three authoritative philosophies on Hindu religion. As per the religious leaders the entire philosophy of Vedas is compiled in Bhagavad Gita and therefore it is also known as Vedanta or Gitopanishad. In this scripture, Sri Krishna is always referred as “Bhagavan”, meaning GOD. Gita has the same stature among the Hindus as Bible has for Christians and Quran among Muslims.
As a Philosophical treatise Gita is unrivalled. It helps people struggling in ignorance and trains them in the art of living and finally elevates them to the highest level of perfection and happiness. Unlike other Upanishads, Gitopanishad is not taught to the aspiring student at the serene and calm environment of Himalayas but in the middle of the battlefield. The circumstances under which Sri Krishna taught Gita to Arjuna represents internal and external conflicts that are so common these days to any living being, more so to a business executive. Externally there is war between two warring factions of the royal family and internally Arjuna is split between his love and loyalty towards his elders, Gurus, relatives and friend and his duty as a Kshatriya, as a warrior.
Gita can also be seen as the first book on Psychology. Much before Freud or Jung, Sri Krishna talked about various states of mind, how a healthy mind can breakdown under difficult circumstances, it talked about the impact of lust and desire to the very existence of human being. Unlike Freud, Gita states that desire and lust do not die if they are fulfilled, they only disappear for a brief moment and returns with equal vigour sooner than later. It is like hunger, disappears once you eat, only to appear few hours later. And Gita also offers us practical methods to control desire that leads us to a happy and contented life.
Gita could also be studied from the historical perspective. The Gita that we know was taught by Krishna to Arjuna during the Mahabharata war and many historians claim that the war took place during 3100 BC based on certain celestial descriptions given in the book. While many others claim that the book is written time anytime between 3000BC to 1000 AD. However there is also a mention in the Gita where Krishna says that Gita was first told by him to the Sun God who in turn taught the same to Manu, Manu advised Ikshaku and then on to the humanity at large by successive teachers over many generations. Therefore the origin of Gita could be seen many millions of years ago!
Bhagavan discusses about many different type of food and its impact on human mind and body in the Gita giving it a touch of health sciences. What is satwick, rajaisic and tamaisic food, who eats what and how one should live, are all explained in a clinical precision in this holy book.
At the same time Bhagavad Gita is a great resource for students of management. Management is the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively. Management comprises planning, organizing, staffing, leading or directing, and controlling an organization (a group of one or more people or entities) or effort for the purpose of accomplishing a goal. It is about keeping oneself engaged in interactive relationship with other human beings in the course of performing one’s duty. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their weaknesses irrelevant and build up a team spirit – says the Management Guru Peter Drucker. An effective Management strikes harmony in working – equilibrium in thoughts and actions, goals and achievements, plans and performance, products and markets. It resolves situations of scarcities be they in the physical, technical or human fields through better allocation and utilization processes. The negation of management is disorder, confusion, wastage, detention, delay, decadence and destruction.
There are commentaries written for the Bhagavad Gita by great many scholars and realised souls that provides in-depth analysis and understanding of this holy book. At the same time the number of management books available these days are in plenty and written by world acclaimed gurus. I am neither a Yogi nor a Guru. But certainly a student of Bhagavad Gita and Management and making a bold attempt to combine the two based on my understanding and experience. What I will be publishing are my study notes and not a thesis, so errors are possible and seek your pardon and understanding. I have taken reference of many commentaries for my work, that includes Swami Chinmayananda, AC Bhakti Vedanta Swami Prabhupada, Swami Gambhirananda, Sri Paramahamsa Yogananda, Swami Ramsukhdasji, and articles on Gita by many more Yogis and scholars. I pay my respectful obeisance to all those venerable and respectable Gurus and Acharyas whose guidance I have taken in writing these notes. If you find anything good in these, the credits are fully due to them. Mistakes, if any, are mine only and seek apologies in advance. I seek your blessings and support for this long journey and help me to overcome this onerous task successfully. And finally I offer these notes at the feet of Jagat Guru Sri Krishna and seek his blessings!