Hinduism produced many philosophical work and texts, among which Gita is considered the most sacred and philosophical scripture. Not only by Hindus, but Gita is popular across religions all over the world. In this article, I would try to present the true essence of Gita, some of its verses and their meaning.
Historical relevance and the story behind it:
Bhagavad-Gita is a part of Bhishma Parva of Hindu epic Mahabharata written by Krishnadwaipayan Byashdeb. Written in Sanskrit, the meaning of Srimad Bhagavad-Gita is the Song of God. There are some doubts about its date of composition. Some scholars give a broad range of possible dates, as in this analysis by R. C. Zaehner:
“As with almost every major religious text in India no firm date can be assigned to the Gītā. It seems certain, however, that it was written later than the ‘classical’ Upanishads with the possible exception of the Maitrī and that it is post-Buddhistic. One would probably not be going far wrong if one dated it at some time between the fifth and the second centuries B. C.”
The story of Mahabharata mainly revolves around the battle of Kurukshetra, where Kauravas and Pandavas fought for the throne of Hastinapur. Before the start of the battle, Arjuna, one of the brothers of Pandava was morose as he was to fight against his own brothers and relatives. He could not accept the fact that he will be responsible for killing all his sect, brothers and relatives. Krishna, who was depicted as an Avatar (incarnation) of God, preaches Arjuna of Life’s philosophy and boosted him up to get readied for the battle. In the entire conversation between Arjuna and Krishna, the philosophical aspects of one’s life, his action, renunciation, knowledge has been vividly described. Hindus believe that if anybody reads Bhagavad-Gita he gets freed from all pains, sorrows and grieves.
The main theme of the content of Bhagavad-Gita is the explanation of five basic concepts of Truth.
1. Ishwara (The Supreme Controller)
2. Jiva (Living beings, the soul)
3. Prakriti (Nature, matter)
4. Karma (Action)
5. Kala (Time)
When Arjuna was morose and was not ready to fight the battle, Krishna counsels him on various aspects of Dharma, what one should do and what not. Krishna explained to him what a man his worth of, what his action should be, what knowledge he should have, how time controls all. He said to Arjuna, who you are that you think you will kill your brother. You are just a puppet in the hand of time. He said that time has already written everybody’s faith and you are just an executioner. He explained the inner meaning of life and said that our body is just like the cloth we wear everyday, soul is the greatest possession. One can destroy body but not soul.
Content (18 Chapters and some verses):
The entire Gita has been divided into eighteen chapters, each describing one aspect of life. These 18 chapters and their main contents are
Arjuna seeing the Kauravas on the opposite side relinquishes his weapon. He became morose knowing the fact that he has to fight and kill his brothers and relatives.
The Path Of Knowledge:
Krishna teaches him that one can kill only the body not soul. Soul is immortal.
“Neither the one who thinks it kills nor the one who thinks it is killed do not know the truth. This neither kills nor gets killed”
“The soul is never born nor does it die at any time. It has neither past nor future. It is unborn, ever existing, permanent and ancient. When the body is slain neither it is killed not it kills.”
“Just as a man discards worn out clothes and puts on new clothes, the soul discards worn out bodies and wears new ones.”
“The soul cannot be pierced by weapons, burnt by fire, moistened by water or dried by wind.”
“The soul is impenetrable, incombustible, unchangeable, certainly ever existing, all-pervading, fixed, immovable, and ever continuing.”
Arjuna questions why would then he act as the most important thing is knowledge. Krishna said that one must act without attaching himself with the action and worldly affairs.
“One cannot achieve freedom from action by merely abstaining from actions, nor one can attain samadhi simply by renouncing all actions.”
“Therefore do your prescribed work, for doing some work is better than doing no work at all. Without work it is not possible to even maintain the physical body.”
“Works in this world can cause bondage unless done with a sense of sacrifice. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your actions for the sake of sacrifice only, free from attachment.”
The Supreme Knowledge:
Krishna tells him that he has lived many lives and over the decades he has incarnated to save the pious and to destroy impious.
“Although I am unborn and inexhaustible, and although I am the Lord of all beings, keeping nature under My control, I manifest Myself by My own self induced illusion”
“Whenever and wherever there is decline of dharma (righteousness) and ascendance of adharma (unrighteousness), at that time I manifest Myself in visible form”
“For the protection of the righteous and destruction of the wicked, and for the sake of establishing dharma again, I incarnate Myself on earth from time to time.”
Renunciation Of Action:
Krishna tells Arjuna that why Karma Yoga is better to adopt.
“The ignorant people say that the yoga of knowledge and the yoga of action are different. But the learned ones do not say so. By achieving mastery in either of the two, one can attain the fruit of both.”
“The qualified karma yogi, who is pure in his heart and conquered his mind and his senses, sees his self in all selves and remains free even though engaged in action”
Yoga Of Self-Control:
Krishna teaches Arjuna the right way of doing meditation.
“Let a man lift himself by himself. Let him not degrade himself. Certainly self is friend to the self and self is also the enemy of the self.”
“He who has controlled his self by his self, certainly his self is his best friend, but for him who has not conquered his self his self is his enemy”
“He who has learned to control his eating and enjoyment, who performs his actions in a balanced manner, who maintains balance between his waking and sleeping periods, his yoga frees him for all his sorrows.”
Knowledge And Wisdom:
Krishna preaches what is knowledge and what is wisdom.
“The earth (energy in the form of gross matter), water ( energy in the form of lighter matter), fire (energy in the form of lighter matter), ether (the subtle matter), mind (energy in the form of consciousness), buddhi (energy in the form of awareness), and the ego (the individualized consciousness)- these are the eight fold divisions of My Prakriti (Creative Energy).”
Attaining The Supreme:
Arjuna is taught, how one can attain the Supreme.
“At the time of death, he who, remembering Me, leaves the body, attains My State. There is no doubt about this.”
“From the unmanifest are manifested all the beings at the beginning of the day and are dissolved again into the unmanifest upon the arrival of the night.”
The Secret Knowledge:
Krishna then reveals to Arjuna his for as world destroyer and explained how he controls all.
“These beings do not exists in Me. Look at my mystic richness. Although I am the bearer and creator of all the beings , My Self does not exist in any of the cosmic manifestations.”
“I am kratu (Vedic ritual), I am yagna (sacrificial ceremony), I am svadha (an offering in the sacrificial ceremony), I am medicine, I am the Mantra (the sacred chant), I am adyam (fuel in the Yagna), I am Agni (fire) and I am hutam (the burnt remains of an offering in the yagna).”
The Manifestation Of God:
Krishna enumerates names of gods, heroes and explained bibhuti (Sacred Ash).
“I am the originator of all. From Me manifest all this. Knowing thus men of wisdom worship Me with concentrated attention.”
“I am the punishing power of those who are in authority. I am the morality of those who are in search of victory. Among the secrets I am the silence and among the knowledgeable I am the knowledge.”
The Universal Vision:
Krishna then gave Arjuna a vision which helped Arjuna to see his Universal omnipotent incarnation. Arjuna exclaimed and requested Krishna to withdraw.
“You are imperishable, the highest (knowledge) to be realized. You are the resting ground for this whole universe. You are the protector of the eternal dharma. It is my conviction that you are the most Ancient Being.”
“O Vishnu, looking at Your expansive form reaching out to the heavens, glowing with innumerable colours, mouth widely open, bright wide eyes, I am certainly terrified in my heart and lost my inner stability and tranquility.”
Krishna explains Arjuna the meaning of Bhakti-Yoga.
“Certainly knowledge is better than practice, but better than knowledge is meditation, superior to which is renunciation of the fruits of actions. Indeed after renunciation there is only peace.”
“Without any hatred towards all beings, friendly and compassionate, without any sense of possessiveness, without any egoism, equal in pleasure and pain and forgiving.”
Nature, The Enjoyer, And Consciousness:
Arjuna learned the meaning of Prakriti, the matter.
“The Mahabhutas (the five great elements), the ego, the discriminating intelligence, the invisible (self), the ten senses (ears, skin, tongue, nose, hands, feet, mouth, anus, and the sexual organs) and the five objects of the senses ( sound, taste, touch, smell and the forms).”
“Desire, repulsion, happiness, sorrow, the aggregate, dynamic awareness, decisiveness, all these are briefly the various aspects of the kshetra (body)”
“Without pride, without pomposity, absence of cruelty, tolerance, straight forwardness, service to Acharya (the spiritual master), cleanliness, stability (of the mind), self-control.”
“Disinterested, detached from the son, wife, home and the like, always even minded in both desirable and undesirable conditions.”
The Three Modes Of Material Nature:
Krishna preaches the three Gunas, or qualities of Sankhya philosophy.
“Sattva (purity), Rajas (passion) and Tamas (ignorance) are the qualities arising out of Prakriti. They bind the soul with the body, O mighty armed.”
“Of them Sattva is of the purest nature, illuminating and without any debility. Through attachment with happiness and knowledge it binds , O sinless one.”
“Know that Rajas is full of passion born out of attachment with thirst (insatiable desire). It binds the embodied, O son of Kunti, through attachment with works.”
“But know that Tamas is born out of ignorance, deludes all embodied beings. Through recklessness, laziness and sleep, it binds (the soul), O Bharata.”
The Yoga Of The Supreme Being:
Description of the three Gunas which has its roots in the heaven and foliage on the Earth.
“Without pride and illusion, free from the impurities of attachment, always turned inwardly, freed from lust, and the sense of duality like happiness or sorrow, the undeluded attain the inexhaustible eternal position.”
The Opposite Qualities:
The two opposite qualities of human being are explained. ”Intelligence, forgiving nature, fortitude, cleanliness, without envy, without egoistic pride- these O Bharata are the riches (virtues) of those born with divine nature.”
“Pomposity, exaggerated self-importance, pride in one self, anger, rudeness and ignorance, are the property (vices ) of the those born with undivine nature.”
The Division Of Qualities:
Thought, deed and ingestion, corresponding to three Gunas, are answered. ”Austerity that is performed for gaining popularity and honor and also for display is regarded in this world as rajasic, which is also unstable and distracted (or without concentration).”
“The austerity that is performed out of foolishness, struggle and by self torture, with an intention to harm others, this is referred as tamasic in nature.”
“The charity that is worth giving, given without any expectation, according to the time and place and to the deserving person, is remembered as sattvic.”
“The charity which is given for the sake of a reciprocal advantage or with the expectation of a result, or given in return (for some advantage or gain), or given grudgingly or with difficulty, that charity is to be remembered as rajasic.”
Liberation By Renunciation:
Arjuna came to knew that one must follow his Dharma or his duty in renunciation. He joined battle.
“Renunciation of action due to unhappiness and the fear that they cause physical discomfort is called rajasic renunciation and he will not gain the fruit of renunciation.”
“He who performs the prescribed actions considering them as obligatory duty and renounces all attachment to the fruit of his actions, such renunciation in my opinion is sattvic in nature.”
“Without aversion to unpleasant work and without attachment to pleasant work, the renouncer is well entrenched in sattva. He is intelligent and free from all doubts.”
Kanquona Bhattacharjee is a freelance writer and blogger. She has completed her post graduation in English from the University of Calcutta. She has some deep insight into social problems and often present these in front of the most strongest medium. Her personal blog is http://journeytolearning.blogspot.com/ She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org