THE BHAGAWAD GITA â€“ ITS INNER MEANING AND SIGNIFICANCE
(EXCERPTS FROM A TALK BY GOVINDH. K. BHARATHAN)
The Bhagwad Gita is considered by some scholars as the diamond around which the setting of Mahabharatha story was necessitated. The Mahabharatha itself is an epic poem on life and times in ancient India and the Bhagawad Gita in the Bhishma Parva of this epic.
To understand the true significance and relevance of the Bhagawad Gita it is necessary to view it in the perspective of the Vedas and the Upanishads. The Vedas are considered direct revelations of the Supreme Truth revealed to the great Rishis. The Vedas can be divided into 3 clear cut portions and the first portion is called the Manthras and contains poetic descriptions of the primeval revelations of the Truth. The Manthra portion interpreted through a highly technical idiom evolved into the Brahmana portion which contained the ritualistic aspect of the truth. The Brahmana potion was essentially invocations for material ends through ritualism. But the brilliance of resurgent Hinduism broke free of its ritualistic shackles and searched for newer interpretations of the oldest truths thus giving birth to the Upanishads. These are declarations of the Truth by realised seers based on their actual experience. Being the end of the Vedas they are known as Vendanta.
The Bhagwad Gita is the culled essence of the Upanishads. It is in effect the digest of the wisdom contained in the various Upanishads and is one of the most comprehensive summaries of the perennial wisdom of the Vedas.
The inventiveness of the Hindu mind has always used the medium of stories to declare the greatest of truths. The Bhagwad Gita is expounded by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the Battle field of Kurukshethra when the despondent Prince was overcome with defeatism faced with seemingly invincible odds in battle.
But any evaluation of the message of the Bhagawat Gita has to shake itself free of the framework of history. Events and personalities have to be interpreted in the context of cosmic truths if one has to understand the core and essence of Bhagawat Gita. The discourse between Krishna and his dejected friend Arjuna is in reality the continuing dialogue between the divine and the human.
Most of the Upanishads are in the setting of the forests and the mountains and seem to carry perpetual ethos of asceticism. This gave the impression that the message of the Upanishads was renunciation. It is precisely for this reason that Hinduism began to be considered as a religion which advocated withdrawal from everyday life into forests and hermitages. The dynamism of life in ancient India was befogged by this false interpretation of the Upanishads and it became necessary to revitalize society, shake it out of its lethargy and redefine the perennial philosophy. This is perhaps why the Bhagawad Gita was conceived in the setting of the battlefield. Life is a constant battle and the remedy is not to withdraw to the forests but to face the challenge. The strains and stresses felt by Arjuna is in reality the constant pressure of life in society. The tendency to withdraw and to seek refuge in a vague and philosophical attitude to life is the wrong approach. Mans duty is to fight without egoistic involvement. The message of the Gita
YADA YADA HI DHARMASYA
GLANIR BHAVATHI BHARATHA
ABHYUTHNA NAMA DHARMASY
This perennial promise of the decent of the divine into human form to show man a way out of his predictments and to indicate the â€œRoyal Pathway to Godâ€ is one of the most dynamic statements of Godâ€™s all encompassing love compassion and commitment o humanity. Perhaps in no oher religion is there such an unequivocal assertion of Divine mercy and love. It reaffirms the principle that man must see God in man, since even God choses the human form to work among men. It also was a crushing blow to ages to superstition and misinterpretation of the perennial philosophy which lead man to worship God in the form of stones, trees, animals and even without form, while at the same time hesitating to worship God as man. Krishna, the dynamic revolutionary reaffirms the divinity of man. He also reaffirms that in essence this divinity is within and not without.
Hence is born the genesis of the idea that to serve man is to serve the Lord. Manava Seva is Madhava Seva. This path is a perfect combination of the 3 important Yogas, Jnana, Bhakti and Karma. The Janani understands that the human form is but a water, buble which dances on the surface of the water, arising from water, held together by water, transcient and instable, which will merge back into water when its time is over.
The Janani sees the water and not in bubble â€“ the pervading divinity and not the out ward form, the Atma and not the body/mind/intellect manifestation in mankind. The Bhakta sees his Lord masquerading with human forms names in all mankind, and soaked in this spirit, frees himself from selfishness in thought word and deed. The Marmayogi converts all his actions into service of this all pervading divinity which appears before him with names and forms as mankind. The Bhagawad Gita stresses a synthesis of these paths. The Lord specifically states that work which incorporates this attitude of Jnana Bhakti and Karma is far better than elaborate worship or pooja.
One of the most confusing aspects of the Bhagawad Gita is the Lordâ€™s direction to Arjuna to fight and destroy his Gurus/uncles and other revered elders who are ranged in battle against him. Very often the question has been put to me whenever I spoke on the Gita as to how Krishna could have advocated such a fratricidal carnage. This again is one of the perennial mysteries of the Bhagawad Gita. One must constantly keep in mind the thin line walked by the Avatar endearingly human; supremely divine. The words of the Avatar are expressions of divine ideals in human terms. The communication of the divine message requires the medium of human images and human situations. To understand the divine it is thus necessary to go beyond the human.
The war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas is but the medium through which the Lord expressed his message to mankind. The exhortation to fight must thus be seen as more than a direction to kill. The fight is against the negative forces within and not the positive forms without. And the Lord says, â€œThink of me and fight and victory will be yours always.â€ Gandhiji, the greatest apostle of non-violence the world has ever seen clearly states that his philosophy is not passive but active non-violence. It is one thing to be passive and cowardly and to yield to the enemy. It is an entirely different thing to be active and brave and to refuse to bow ones head before insolent might. Such a fight need not be violent but it is definitely a fight. It is an active organized planned offensive against the forces that threaten to overwhelm the individual by the sheer arrogance of power. The exhortation to fight is against these forces. It would be wrong to interpret this call as a mere instigation to destroy on a human plane. No avatar or prophet of any religion would be head to sustain any act destructive of human life or opposed to Satya, Dharma, Shanti and Prema, the 4 pillars of Sanathana Dharma, let alone Lord Krishna who is its human embodiment.
Before concluding there are one or two important aspects of the Bhagawad Gita which seem to me to have special significance for Sai Devotees.
At almost the arithmetical centre of the Bhagawad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that those devotees who knowing no one else constantly think of Him, who are ever united in thought with Him, He will bring full security and personally attend to their needs.
YE JANAA : PARYUPASATHE
BHAGAWAD GITA 9/22.
Almost identical words are said by the Baba of Shiridi. Baba said that there would be no want of food and/or clothing in houses of His devotees. In this incarnations as Satya Sai, His devotees have often felt this warm protection and constant motherly love and care. This is the content & essence of Babâ€™s message:
â€œWhy fear when I am here.â€
Again the Lord says:
â€œWhoever offers to Me with Love,
a leaf, a flower, a fruit or ever
water I appear in person before
that devotee and delightfully
partake of that article offered
by him with lover.â€
This is a constant experience of all devotees. The whole world is prepared to empty its coffers at the Lords feet, but he prefers the tender green shoots of devotion, the pure flower of love from the heart, the fruit of all actions surrendered to him and the tears of compassion for the suffering of others.
Concluding the divine song, the Lord says that he has imparted knowledge more Secret than secrecy to Arjuna. He then tells Arjuna to reflect on this and do as he pleases. This is the greatest tribute that the Lord can pay to man. There is no compulsion nor is there coercion to follow this path or that. It reflects the complete confidence that the Lord has in mankind. This to me is the path the Divine Mother Matha Amruthanandamayi Devi also shows, the path of guidance compassion and tolerance all contained within the crucible of the Motherâ€™s Lover.
And one cannot but conclude but by quoting the words of Sanjaya in the last stanza of the Bhagawad Gita that where ever there is Krishna Lord of Yoga and wherever there is Arjunathe weilder of the Gandiva Bow, prosperity, victory glory and righteousness are assured. This stanza is the crowning glory of the Bhagawad Gita. Is not an Arjuna kneeling in supplication and begging favours of the Lord that is portrayed here, but an Arjuna who is the wielder of the Gandiva Bow, the dynamic man of action, the scorcher of foes the vanquisher of his enemies. This is a call to action to fight ones battles and not to withdraw from life, to face evil with courage and not to flee from it.