Venu Payyanur.

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!

Hari Om.

Venu Payyanur.

Bhagavad Gita, the name itself inspires most of us, and we think of it with awe! Why? What is Bhagavad Gita? Different people think of and study Gita differently. For me Gita is a doctrine of universal truth. Its message is universal, sublime, non-sectarian and deals with most sacred metaphysical science. It imparts the knowledge of the self and answers two universal questions. Who am I and how can I lead a happy and peaceful life in this world of dualities!

Gita can be studied from different angles and perspectives based on the individuals attitude and aptitude. It can be studied as a religious doctrine or as a spiritual text. One can admire its poetic beauty or study as a historical text book. There are invaluable management insights in this great book and one can use it for self-improvement. Yet how many of us really take the trouble and concentration required to read and understand this encyclopaedia of humanity which is so easily available anywhere in our country? Very few indeed! Why? Those who have this holy book keep it in their prayer room wrapped in a red cloth to be opened once a year for cleaning only! For others it is a decorative ornament gathering dust in their book shelve. The reasons are many and varied.

  • Many believe that Gita is a spiritual book to be read only by the old and retired people particularly after they turn 60 years of age. 
  • Most available translations and commentaries are written by Swamis (monks) who are too distanced from normal life to understand the trials and tribulations of modern day executive. Hence it offers nothing to me.
  • It is too deep in philosophy and metaphysical theories that understanding is too difficult for a common person like me!
  • The book is written in Sanskrit, a language not taught in schools and therefore I will not understand it.
  • It is the holy book to be read and understood only by Hindus, particularly the upper class Hindus.
  • I am too busy meeting my two ends meet and overcoming everyday challenges in my life that Gita reading is simply a luxury.

Let us evaluate this holy book based on the above facts and statements.

Bhagavad Gita, the divine song of the GOD occurs in the Bhishma Parva of the Mahabharata and comprises 18 chapters from 25th to the 42nd. Dhritarashtra and Pandu are the two sons of King Vichitravirya, who died at a very young age. Since Dhritarashtra was born blind, he could not become the king and therefore his younger brother Pandu was made the King of the Kuru dynasty. However Pandu died very soon and Dhritarashtra became the ruler and ruled the kingdom with the help of the eldest in the family Bhishma and his younger brother Vidura. The sons of Dhritarashtra and Pandu grew up in the same household and were trained in military arts by the same teacher, Guru Dronacharya. As the children grew there was constant bickering between the Kauravas (children of Dhritarashtra) and Pandavas (children of Pandu) and the eldest Kaurava, Duryodhana wanted to become the king even though Yudhishthira, the eldest Pandava is the eldest Prince. Due to his extreme and blind love towards his children, particularly Duryodhana, the King Dhritarashtra supported the move and silently permitted every cruel and illegal plan hatched to eliminate the Pandavas. However public opinion was in favour of Pandavas and therefore Bhishma advised the king to divide the kingdom. Accordingly Kauravas were given the existing capital of Hastinapura to rule and Pandavas were given a wild forest where they created a magnificent city called Indraprastha and ruled for 36 years. But Duryodhana was jealous of the prosperity of the Pandavas and to ruin them he invited Yudhishthira for a game of dice which resulted in the banishment of Pandavas along with their wife Draupadi for 12 years in the forest and an additional year to be lived incognito in any of the cities. If they are identified during this incognito life of one year, the routine of forest and incognito life is extended for one more term of 13 years. Having successfully completed the stipulated period of forest and incognito life for thirteen years, when the Pandavas requested Duryodhana for their kingdom, he refused to return leaving the Pandavas no option but to fight.  Mediation by Krishna and others failed and Mahabharata war became inevitable and law abiding, God fearing Pandavas were dragged into the war by greedy Duryodhana and his brothers. They had only two choices: Fight for their right as a matter of duty or run away from war and accept defeat in the name of peace and nonviolence. Arjuna, one of the five Pandava brothers, faced the dilemma in the battlefield whether to fight or run away from war for the sake of peace. Arjuna’s dilemma is, in reality, the universal dilemma. Every human being faces dilemmas, big and small, in their everyday life when performing their duties. Arjuna had to make a choice between fighting the war and killing his most loved Grand Father, revered guru, uncles, brothers, cousins, very dear friends, close relatives, and many innocent warriors or running away from the battlefield for the sake of preserving the peace and nonviolence. The entire seven hundred verses of the Bhagavad-Gita is a discourse between Lord Krishna and the confused Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra near New Delhi, India, in about 3,100 years BCE. This discourse was narrated to the blind king, Dhritarashtra, by his charioteer, Sanjaya, as an eyewitness war report.

According to Pundits and Indologists, Bhagavad Gita was written during 3100 BC. None of the major religions that are in existence today such as Christianity, Muslim, Buddhism, etc. did not exists those days and therefore this treatise is meant for all, irrespective of the religion, cast, creed, race or region.

Gita is not for the old and the retired. It is also not a book to be studied under the solitude of Himalayas. If you study the circumstances under which Krishna advised Gita to Arjuna, in the middle of two armies ready and raring to go to war, it becomes clear that Gita is for today’s youth. A generation who are young and raring to go but confused beyond imagination. In the din and roar of everyday life, cut throat competition and rivalry today’s youth is confused and their mind is unclear.

Gita is addressed to Arjuna who represents the youth of today – confused, dejected and at times disillusioned. Today’s youth are not satisfied with what they have and possess and want to earn and spend more. At the same time they want it easily and without doing the hard work necessary for achievement. They always run away from any problem that comes their way and never show the courage and commitment to confront and overcome these challenges. Though more educated than their counterparts 25 or 50 years ago and have much more opportunities for success and growth than their ancestors, they feel helpless and hopeless. They are tired of the corrupt political system and the associated inefficiency in the administrative system, but none are ready to fight and simply runs away. This is exactly what is called the “Arjuna syndrome”. Gita is an ideal book which can motivate and energise the disillusioned youth as it has all the answers for your life’s problem.  The Gita provides us an insight into a theory of self-development that is useful for holistic living.

Another concern expressed by most seekers is that the available translations and commentaries are written by Swamis (monks) who are too distanced from normal life to understand the trials and tribulations of modern day executive. Hence it offers nothing to me. From the time of birth to the last breath, a person have to constantly fight many different battles in life to survive and grow. It includes biological, hereditary, religious and racial, social, ethical, psychological, physical and metaphysical and many more. In every such fight you confront the dual forces, the good and bad, the supporting and the opposing, the motivating or the demotivating, the lists are endless. Who else but a Yogi, the enlightened soul has the ability to take you through the trials and tribulations of life and help you achieve the purpose of your life. A Yogi, when I say, does not mean only those who are wearing the saffron robes and living in Himalayas. There are many highly knowledgeable and evolved souls who have contributed significantly towards better understanding of life and its purposes living in our midst. Great many scholars like Mahatma Gandhi and Dr S Radhakrishnan have written commentaries on Gita, besides many highly acclaimed versions from western thinkers such as Sir. Edwin Arnold, Annie Besant, Charles Johnston, George Thomson, Stephen Mitchell, Juan Mascaro, Christopher Isherwood, etc. This clearly reflects the universal acceptance of this holy book and its teachings. 

Hari OM

 Venu Payyanur

After a hiatus of five months I am resuming my writing. And the topic is “Bhagavad Gita for executives”. There are hundreds of Gita commentaries available these days written by enlightened souls and Yogis, and there are plenty of management books written by eminent Gurus available for an aspiring learner to pick from. I am neither a Yogi nor a Guru but a student. And this is not a thesis but my study notes. Let us together explore the inner depths of Gita sagar in search of those invaluable pearls of wisdom and management thoughts that are available in plenty there. The journey is long and arduous. I seek your guidance and company to complete this difficult journey and request your encouragement throughout to complete my study.

Hari OM.