The Ancient Gospel to Modern Mankind


Sri Swami Sivananda

This article is from the book Ethics of the Bhagavad Gita.

The Bhagavad Gita is an ancient solution of the modern problems too. The problems that face the human beings are essentially the same in all periods of time, though they appear in different dresses at different times. The greatness of the Gita lies in that it is an integral gospel, a solution of all problems in all their aspects, at all times, in all places and under all circumstances. The Gita was pronounced by the integral person, Sri Krishna, who represented the true Being; the Gita was meant to be an instruction to Arjuna, who represented the true man! The problems that faced Arjuna face mankind in general; the Gita is the answer to the universal question of life as a whole.

Social problems, political problems, and individual problems, relating to the different conditions of life, physical, intellectual and spiritual, are all offshoots of certain fundamental difficulties which appear to make existence a scene of acute restlessness and grief. Peace, abundance and happiness seem to be the factors which control the value of life; the lack of these becomes the source of a severe want and a problem; the continuous presence of these seems to overcome all forms or sorrow. The basic error which the Gita points out that man has committed is the absence of the knowledge of the main cause of all kinds of problems that obstruct the establishment of oneself in non-intermittent, ceaseless satisfaction. The various categories of the constitution of the universe enumerated by the Gita point to the fact that the Soul of the universe is not what is perceived by man through his senses or thought of by his mind, but the presupposition of conception, perception and all knowledge which man professes to generate or possess. The God of the universe is the heart thereof, the Transcendental Subject without an object, which means that problems and difficulties arise in objectivating the true Subject, the God within man, i.e., in being untrue to one’s real Self. In order to know the world fully, the knower must be independent of the laws governing the world; else, knowledge complete would be impossible. One whose knowledge is controlled by external phenomena can never have knowledge of them. The impulse for absolute knowledge guarantees the possibility of such a knowledge. This shows that the knower is superior to the known to such an extent that the known loses its value of being in the light of the absoluteness of the knower. The Bhagavad Gita stresses on the existence of this state of the Supreme Being to the exclusion of everything else, in the statement “other than Me, nothing is.”

To try to find absolute perfection in the world, therefore, is to attempt the impossible; for, that is possible only in “attaining Me” (in the words of Lord Krishna), in attaining, or, rather, in being the absolute knower whose knowledge is not of anything except himself. To become Krishna is to become the Absolute Being, where alone is perpetual peace, abundance and happiness in unalloyed essence. The satisfaction found in the world is the mind of the knower seen through the mirror of objectivity; it is the perception of one’s idea in concrete objective forms, though the basis of such forms is the absolute Self or the universal Soul. The repeated assertions made in the Gita to the effect that doubts, problems and worries are overcome in the attainment of God, make it clear–that, because knowledge of God, or attainment of God means being God, the riddle of life in the universe with its unsurmountable vexations and annoying experiences can be finally solved on arriving at the knowledge that the fundamental error is the attribution of reality and selfhood to thought-forms and that true perfection is being rooted in the consciousness of Absolute Selfhood.

The modern man opines himself to be scientific and strictly rational. The Bhagavad Gita warns man that science and rational knowledge are simply laws and knowledge of the forms of external experience which by no means are valid by themselves. They are valid only in so far as they are related to an experiencing phenomenal subject, but they are invalid to noumenal subject which is the heart of even the perceived or the known forms of experience. Experience is not prior but posterior to Self-consciousness; hence all experience in the world is the outcome of the ideas given rise by consciousness in the capacity of the knowing subject which it essentially is. The phenomenon should vanish in the Noumenon which is the Root-existence. Until this is achieved, no problem can be solved, no pain can be alloyed. The great modern problems are a trifle to the wisdom of the Gita which considers worldly wisdom as fool’s paradise.

The way of life to be lived in order to reach absolute perfection is pointed out by the ethics of the Gita itself. It is the calming of the passions, creative willing, the cessation of all psychic functions, that leads to a merging in Self-consciousness, where alone is the freedom from the oppression of life in a multifarious universe, where alone is thorough and unlimited perfection, and which alone is real knowledge, true wisdom. The world is the special mode of the conception and the perception of the Absolute by the functions of ideation or creative imagining. The cessation of such functions is liberation from all problems and possession of andlife in infinite peace. This is the supreme word of the Gita to all.

May you all attain the freedom which knows no bounds and rest in peace!

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