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The Bhagavad Gita
Sri Swami Sivananda
Glory of the Gita
The Need For A Teacher
The Teaching of the Gita
The Bhagavad Gita is a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, narrated in the Bhishma-Parva of the Mahabharata. It comprises eighteen chapters of a total of 701 Sanskrit verses. Considerable matter has been condensed and compressed within these verses. On the battle-field of Kurukshetra, Lord Krishna, during the course of His most interesting and instructive talk with Arjuna, revealed the profound, sublime and soul-stirring spiritual truths, and expounded to him the rare secrets of Yoga, Vedanta, Bhakti and Karma. All the teachings of Lord Krishna were subsequently recorded as the Song Celestial or the Bhagavad Gita by Sri Bhagavan Vyasa for the benefit of humanity at large. The world is under a great debt of gratitude to Sri Vyasa who has presented this Celestial Song to humanity for their daily conduct in life, spiritual uplift and Self-realisation. Only those who are self-controlled and are endowed with faith can reap the full benefit of the Gita, which is the Science of the Soul.
In the whole world-literature there is no book so elevating and so inspiring as the Gita. India is held in high esteem by the Westerners on account of the Gita. Mahatma Gandhi once visited one of the biggest libraries in London and asked the librarian: "What spiritual book is most often issued?" The librarian replied: "It is the Gita." The Gita is very popular throughout the world. It has been translated into almost all the major languages of the world.
Everyone of you should study very carefully the Gita, a sublime and soul-stirring book that can bestow on you supreme peace, immortality and eternal bliss.
There are countless commentaries on the Gita at the present day. A volume can be written on each verse. A busy man with Karmic tendencies will be benefited by "Gita Rahasya", the commentary of Sri Bala Gangadhara Tilak; a man of devotion by studying Sridhara’s commentary; and a man of reason by Sri Sankara’s commentary.
Glory of the Gita
The Gita is a unique book for all ages. It is a book that comes under the category of Prasthanatraya, the authoritative books of the Hindu religion. The Gita is the Immortal Song of the Soul, which bespeaks the glory of life. The instructions that are inculcated by Lord Krishna are for the whole world. It is a standard book on Yoga for all. The language is as simple as it could be. Even a man who has an elementary knowledge of Sanskrit can go through the book. It deals with the four Yogas, viz., Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga.
The Gita is the cream of the Vedas. It is the essence of the Upanishads. It is the universal scripture for all people of all temperaments and for all times. It is a wonderful book with sublime thoughts and practical instructions on Yoga, devotion, Vedanta and action. It is a marvellous book, profound in thoughts and sublime in heights of vision. It gives peace and solace to the souls who are afflicted by the three fires (Taapas) of this mortal world (Samsara), viz., Adhyatmika (afflictions caused by one’s own body), Adhibhautika (those caused by beings around one) and Adhidaivika (those caused by the gods).
The teachings of the Gita are broad, universal and sublime. Its teachings do not belong to any cult, sect, creed, particular age, place or country. They are meant for the people of the whole world at large. The teachings are based on the Upanishads, the ancient wisdom of the seers (Rishis) and sages. It teaches a method which is within the reach of all. It has a message for the solace, peace, freedom, salvation and perfection of all human beings.
The Gita-gospel was given over five thousand years ago on the battle-field of Kurukshetra, by Lord Krishna to Arjuna. The whole world is a big battle-field. The real Kurukshetra is within you. The battle of Mahabharata is still raging within you. Ignorance (Avidya) is Dhritarashtra. The individual soul is Arjuna. The Indweller Who dwells in your heart is Lord Krishna, the charioteer. The body is your chariot. The senses (Indriyas) are the horses. The mind, egoism, senses, Samskaras (mental impressions), Vasanas (latent tendencies), cravings, Raga-Dvesha (likes and dislikes), lust, jealousy, greed, pride and hypocrisy are your dire enemies.
The Gita gives you practical lessons to regulate your daily life and conduct. It tells you how to overcome the above enemies, how to develop the divine virtues which will help you to attain God-consciousness. The message of the Gita is the message of sacrifice, love and duty. Love all. Share what you have with others. Do your duties well. Rise above petty likes and dislikes. Keep open the portals of your heart by removing selfishness, greed and lust, so that the Supreme Lord Himself may come and dwell therein. These are the lessons of the Gita.
The Need For A Teacher
As the Gita contains subtle and profound teachings, you should study it under a qualified teacher, a Brahma-nishtha Guru, with great faith, single-minded devotion and purity. Then only the truths of the Gita will be revealed unto you like the Amalaka fruit in the hand. Good commentaries like Swami Madhusudana’s Gita, Sri Swami Sankarananda’s Gita, Sri Sankara’s commentary, etc., written by realised sages, will be of immense help to you.
Lord Krishna speaks from different levels of consciousness. Therefore, the help of a teacher is necessary if you wish to know the right significance of the Slokas. You cannot rightly comprehend the meaning of the verses of the Gita without the help of a teacher. Otherwise, you will be like the man who brought a horse before one who asked for ‘Saindhava’ when he was taking his food. ‘Saindhava’ means ‘salt’ as well as ‘a horse’.
Study of the Gita alone is sufficient for the purpose of daily Svadhyaya (scriptural study). You will find a solution here for all your doubts. The more you study with devotion and faith, the more you will get deeper knowledge, penetrative insight and clear right thinking. Even if you live in the spirit of one verse of the Gita, all your miseries will come to an end and you will attain the goal of life—Immortality and Eternal Peace.
The eighteen chapters of the Gita are divided into three sections, illustrative of the three terms of the Mahavakya or the Great Sentence of the Sama Veda, Tat-Tvam-Asi (That Thou Art). In accordance with this view, the first six chapters deal with the path of action or Karma Yoga and the nature of "Thou" or the Tvam-Pada. The next six chapters explain the path of devotion or Bhakti Yoga and the nature of "That" or Tat-Pada. The last six chapters treat of the path of knowledge or Jnana Yoga and the nature of the term "Art" or Asi-Pada which establishes the identity of the individual and the Supreme Soul, Jiva-Brahma-Aikya.
The Teaching of the Gita
Man is a composite of three fundamental factors, viz., cognition, feeling and will. There are people with three kinds of temperaments, viz., the active temperament, the emotional temperament and the rational temperament. So, there are the three Yogas, viz., Jnana Yoga for the man of enquiry and self-analysis or rational temperament, Bhakti Yoga for the man of emotional temperament, and Karma Yoga for the man of active temperament. One Yoga is as efficacious as the other.
The Gita, therefore, formulates the theory of the three Margas (paths), viz., the Jnana Marga, the Bhakti Marga and the Karma Marga, to suit to people of all temperaments. According to the teaching of the Gita, there is no conflict among the three. The Gita harmonises wonderfully the philosophy of action, devotion and knowledge. All the three must be harmoniously blended if you wish to attain perfection. You should have the head of Sri Sankara, the heart of Lord Buddha and the hand of Raja Janaka. The three horses of this body-chariot—action, emotion and intellect—should work in perfect harmony. Only then will this body-chariot move smoothly and you can reach the destination safely and quickly. Only then can you rejoice in the Self within. Only then can you sing the song of Soham (I am He). Only then can you be in tune with the Infinite. Only then can you hear the soundless voice of the soul and enjoy the sweet internal music of the Self.
The central teaching of the Gita is the attainment of the final beatitude of life or perfection or Freedom (Moksha) by doing the duties of life or one’s Svadharma. The Lord says to Arjuna: "Therefore without attachment, do thou always perform action which should be done; for by performing action without attachment man reaches the Supreme."
The Gita emphasises again and again that one should cultivate an attitude of non-attachment or detachment. It urges repeatedly that one should live in the world like the lotus-leaf, which is unaffected by water. He who acts placing all actions in the Eternal, abandoning attachment, is as unaffected by sin as a lotus-leaf by water—Padmapatramivambhasa.
Attachment is due to Moha. Attachment is the offspring of the quality of Rajas. Non-attachment is born of Sattva. Attachment is an Asuri-Sampat, demoniacal quality. Non-attachment is a Daivi-Sampat, divine attribute. Attachment is born of ignorance, selfishness and passion. Attachment brings death. Non-attachment is wisdom. Non-attachment brings freedom. Practice of detachment is a rigorous discipline indeed. You will have to practise it again and again. You may tumble down like a baby who is just learning to walk, but you will have to rise up again with a smile and a cheerful heart. Failures are not stumbling blocks, but stepping-stones to success. Try to dwell always in your own Self. Abide in your own Self. Abide in your centre. Think of the Self constantly. All attachments will die automatically. Attachment to God or Atman is a potent antidote to annihilate all worldly attachments. He who has no attachment can really love others. He has pure love or divine Prema. Therefore, without attachment, constantly perform action which is duty, for, by performing actions without attachment, man verily reaches the Supreme.
By the grace of Bhagavan Vyasa this unique Gospel of the Gita was revealed to the world by Sanjaya on the eleventh day (Ekadasi) of the bright half of the Margasirsha month (December) according to the Hindu almanac. This day is celebrated as the Gita Jayanti or the Birthday of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, throughout India by all admirers and lovers of this wonderful treasure of wisdom.
Worship the Srimad Bhagavad Gita as a holy scripture. Study a chapter from it daily. But, stop not with that. Live in the spirit of the teachings of the Gita. Mere talk and lecture will not help you in any way. You may know the whole of the Gita by heart; you may deliver lectures on the Gita for hours together; and yet, you may not have a ray of the wisdom of the Gita. What is wanted is regular practice of the teachings of the Gita. Become intensely practical. Let the Gita guide your thoughts, prompt your speech, and rule your actions. Then your whole attitude towards life will be gradually changed. You will become a God-man with God-vision. You will no more be perturbed by success or failure, pleasure or pain, loss or gain. You will attain courage, strength, peace and bliss in this very life, right where you are. May the blessings of Lord Krishna be upon you all!
Last Updated: Wednesday, 09-Nov-2016 03:50:33 EST
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