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Hindu Scriptures (Part 6d) Bhagavad Gita : Some Interesting Questions about Hinduism…

Some Interesting Questions about  Hinduism…

Hindu Scriptures (Part 6d) Bhagavad Gita

Bhagavad Gita

The Gita begins before the start of the climactic Mahabharata war, where the Pandava prince Arjuna is filled with doubt on the battlefield. Realizing that his enemies are his own relatives, beloved friends, and revered teachers, he turns to his charioteer and guide, Krishna, for advice. Responding to Arjuna’s confusion and moral dilemma, Krishna explains to Arjuna his duties as a warrior and prince, elaborating on a variety of philosophical concepts. The Song of the Bhagavan, often referred to as simply the Gita, is a 700-verse scripture that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. This scripture contains a conversation between Pandava prince Arjuna and his guide Lord Krishna on a variety of theological and philosophical issues.  The Bhagavad Gita’s call for selfless action inspired many leaders of the Indian independence movement including Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who referred to the Gita as his “spiritual dictionary”. There are four main themes of Bhagavad Gita :

1. Yoga (Perfect way of life)

Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita refers to the skill required in a human being for union with the ultimate reality/ the Absolute/ God. In his commentary, Root meaning of yoga is ‘yoking’ or ‘preparation’/ ‘spiritual exercise’, which conveys the various nuances in the best way. The eighteen chapters of the Bhagavad Gita have a progressive order, by which Krishna leads Arjuna up the ladder of Yoga from one rung to another.

Karma yoga : Since it is impossible for living beings to avoid action all together, the Bhagavad Gita therefore offers a practical approach to liberation in the form of Karma yoga. The path of Karma yoga upholds the necessity of action. However, this action is to be undertaken without any attachment to the work or desire for results. Bhagavad Gita terms this inaction in action and action in inaction (4.18). Gandhi said, ‘The object of the Gita appears to me to be that of showing the most excellent way to attain self-realization’, and this can be achieved by selfless action, By desireless action; by renouncing fruits of action; by dedicating all activities to God, i.e., by surrendering oneself to Him/Her body and soul. Gandhi called Gita, The Gospel of Selfless Action. In order to achieve true liberation, it is important to control all mental desires and tendencies to enjoy sense pleasures.

Bhakti yoga : The introduction to chapter seven of the Bhagavad Gita explains bhakti/ worship which consists of unceasing and loving remembrance of God. Faith and total surrender to a chosen God are considered to be important aspects of bhakti.

Jnana yoga : Jnana yoga is the path of wisdom, knowledge, and direct experience of Brahma as the ultimate reality. The path renounces both desires and actions, and is therefore depicted as being steep and very difficult in the Bhagavad Gita. This path is often associated with the non-dualistic Vedantic belief of the identity of the Soul (Atma) with the God (Brahma). For the followers of this path, the realisation of the identity of Soul and God is held as the key to liberation. When a sensible man ceases to see different identities due to different material bodies and he sees how beings are expanded everywhere, he attains to the Brahma conception. Those who see with eyes of knowledge the difference between the body and the knowledge of the body, and can also understand the process of liberation from bondage in material nature, attain to the supreme goal.

2. Self Duty/ Righteousness/ Religion (Dharma)

Dharma is referred in the first verse of the Bhagavad Gita itself. Dhritarashtra refers to the Kurukshetra as the ‘Field of dharma’. Dharma in this verse refers to the eternal order and duties which pervades the whole cosmos and is ultimately true and right. Therefore, ‘Field of action’ implies the field of righteousness, where truth will eventually triumph. Some expert also see the ‘Field of action’ as the world which is a ‘battleground for moral struggle’ for every human being. Responding to Arjuna’s despondency, Krishna asks him to follow his path of his duty/ religion as he things of what is right from within (swadharma). Swadharma literally means work born out of one’s nature and in this verse, is often interpreted, in case of Arjuna in the battlefield, as the duty of a warrior. Eighteenth chapter of the Gita examines the relationship between self observed duties (Swadharma) and character (swabhava) or inherent nature. In this chapter, the self observed duties of an individual is linked with the qualities/ attributes or tendencies arising out of one’s character. The idea that an individual’s duty is based on their essential nature allowed us to deduce the doctrine that ‘the functions of a man ought to be determined by his natural turn, gift, and capacities.’ Gandhi found in the concept of your own duties or religion (swadharma), the basis for his idea of using products produced by self (swadeshi). To him, swadeshi was ‘swadharma applied to one’s immediate environment’

3. Liberation/ Salvation (Moksha)

Liberation or moksha in Vedic philosophy is not something that can be acquired or reached. The Soul (Ātma) is something that is always present as the essence of the self, and can be revealed by deep intuitive knowledge. While the Upanishads largely uphold such a monistic viewpoint of liberation, the Bhagavad Gita also accommodates the dualistic and theistic aspects of moksha. The Gita, while occasionally hinting at impersonal Brahma as the goal, revolves around the relationship between the Self and a personal God. A synthesis of knowledge, devotion, and desireless action is given as a prescription for human who otherwise live a confused life, it is the solution given by Krishan to Arjuna’s despondence.

4. Allegory of War

Bhagavad Gita is totally different from any other religious scriptures that we come across. Gita broadcasts its message in the centre of the battlefield. The choice of such an unholy ambiance for the delivery of a philosophical discourse has been an enigma to many western philosophers and thinkers. Gita’s subject is the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage if he or she is to emerge from life victorious, and the language of battle is often found in the scriptures, for it conveys the strenuous, long, drawn-out campaign we must wage to free ourselves from the tyranny of the ego, the cause of all our suffering and sorrow. Arjuna is considered as an allegory of our Soul (Atma), Krishna as an allegory of God (Brahma), Arjuna’s chariot as the body, and Dhritarashtra, the blind king, as the ignorance filled mind. Gandhi in his commentary on the Gita interprets the battle as ‘an allegory in which the battlefield is the soul and Arjuna, man’s higher impulses struggling against evil’. Swami Vivekananda said, ‘This Kurukshetra War is only an allegory. When we sum up its esoteric significance, it means the war which is constantly going on within man between the tendencies of good and evil.’ According to Vivekananda, ‘If one reads this one Shloka, one gets all the merits of reading the entire Gita; for in this one Shloka lies imbedded the whole Message of the Gita.’ क्लैब्यं मा स्म गमः पार्थ नैतत्त्वय्युपपद्यते । क्षुद्रं हृदयदौर्बल्यं त्यक्त्वोत्तिष्ठ परंतप॥ (Do not yield to unmanliness, O son of Prithâ. It does not become you. Shake off this base faint-heartedness and arise, O scorcher of enemies! – (Bhagavad Gita 2.3)

The Bhagavad Gita is divided into eighteen chapters. The Sanskrit editions of the Gita name each chapter as a particular form of yoga. However, these chapter titles do not appear in the Sanskrit text of the Mahabharata. Each of the eighteen chapters is designated as a separate yoga because each chapter, like yoga, ‘trains the body and the mind’.

  1. Arjuna Vishaad Yoga – The Yoga of Dejection of Arjuna (46 verses): Arjuna has requested Krishna to move his chariot between the two armies. His growing dejection is described as he fears losing friends and relatives as a consequence of war.
  2. Saankhya Yoga – The Yoga of Knowledge (72 verses): After asking Krishna for help, Arjuna is instructed into various subjects such as, Karma yoga, Jnana yoga, Sankhya yoga, Buddhi yoga and the immortal nature of the soul. This chapter is often considered the summary of the entire Bhagavad Gita.
  3. Karma Yoga – The Yoga of Action (43 verses) : Krishna explains how performance of prescribed duties, but without attachment to results, is the appropriate course of action for Arjuna.
  4. Gyaan Karma Sanyaas Yoga – Yoga of Knowledge as well as discipline of Action and Knowledge (42 verses): Krishna reveals that he has lived through many births, always teaching yoga for the protection of the pious and the destruction of the impious and stresses the importance of accepting a guru.
  5. Karma Sanyaas Yoga – The Yoga of Action and Knowledge  (29 verses): Arjuna asks Krishna if it is better to forgo action or to act (“renunciation or discipline of action”).[26] Krishna answers that both are ways to the same goal,[27] but that acting in Karma yoga is superior.
  6. Aatma Saiyam Yoga – The Yoga of Self Control (47 verses): Krishna describes the Ashtanga yoga. He further elucidates the difficulties of the mind and the techniques by which mastery of the mind might be gained.
  7. Gyaan Vigyaan Yoga – The Yoga of ‘Knowledge of Nirguna Brahma and the Knowledge of Manifest Divinity’ (30 verses): Krishna describes the absolute reality and its illusory energy Maya.
  8. Aksara–Brahma yoga – Attainment of Salvation (28 verses): This chapter contains eschatology of the Bhagavad Gita. Importance of the last thought before death, differences between material and spiritual worlds, and light and dark paths that a soul takes after death are described.
  9. Raja–Vidya–Raja–Guhya yoga – The Yoga of Royal Knowledge and the Royal Mystery (34 verses): Krishna explains how His eternal energy pervades, creates, preserves, and destroys the entire universe.
  10. Vibhuti–Vistara–yoga – The Yoga of Heavenly Perfections (42 verses): Krishna is described as the ultimate cause of all material and spiritual existence. Arjuna accepts Krishna as the Supreme Being, quoting great sages who have also done so.
  11. Visvarupa–Darsana yoga – Yoga of the Manifesting of the One and Manifold (55 verses): On Arjuna’s request, Krishna displays his “universal form” (Visvarupa), a theophany of a being facing every way and emitting the radiance of a thousand suns, containing all other beings and material in existence.
  12. Bhakti yoga – The Yoga of Faith (20 verses): In this chapter Krishna glorifies the path of devotion to God. Krishna describes the process of devotional service (Bhakti yoga). He also explains different forms of spiritual disciplines.
  13. Ksetra–Ksetrajna Vibhaga yoga – The Yoga of Separation of Matter and Spirit (35 verses): The difference between transient perishable physical body and the immutable eternal soul is described. The difference between individual consciousness and universal consciousness is also made clear.
  14. Gunatraya–Vibhaga yoga – Yoga of Separation from the Qualities (27 verses): Krishna explains the three modes of material nature pertaining to goodness, passion, and science. Their causes, characteristics, and influence on a living entity are also described.
  15. Purusottama yoga – The Yoga of Attaining the Supreme (20 verses): Krishna identifies the transcendental characteristics of God such as, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.[38] Krishna also describes a symbolic tree (representing material existence), which has its roots in the heavens and its foliage on earth. Krishna explains that this tree should be felled with the ‘axe of detachment’, after which one can go beyond to his supreme abode.
  16. Daivasura–Sampad–Vibhaga yoga – The Yoga of Separateness of the Divine and Undivine (24 verses): Krishna identifies the human traits of the divine and the demonic natures. He counsels that to attain the supreme destination one must give up lust, anger, greed, and discern between right and wrong action by discernment through intellect (Buddhi) and evidence from the scriptures.
  17. Sraddhatraya-Vibhaga yoga – Yoga of the Threefold Kinds of Faith (28 verses): Krishna qualifies the three divisions of faith, thoughts, deeds, and even eating habits corresponding to the three modes.
  18. Moksha–Sanyasa yoga – Yoga of Deliverance and Renunciation (78 verses): In this chapter, the conclusions of previous seventeen chapters are summed up. Krishna asks Arjuna to abandon all forms of dharma and simply surrender unto him and describes this as the ultimate perfection of life.

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