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.