A Glimpse Into the Bhagavad Gita, Part 1 (The Song Celestial) Thursday’s Homily for the Devout 10
The Bhagavad Gita (The Song Celestial), or Song of the Transcendental Soul, is a tower of Spirituality and perhaps the most sacred book in Hinduism. It is also increasingly read by western devotees and scholars. The Gita is not a mere book, but the Light of Divinity in humanity.
The Gita is set on a battlefield and is a conversation between Sri Krishna and his beloved disciple Arjuna, a Kshatriya warrior and the main protagonist of the Pandavas and the tale itself. This wonderful, lofty and sublime epic, is filled with heroes of great valour, spirituality and virtues, from either side of the forces gathered together to fight their cause.
The Gita is an episode in the sixth book of the Mahabharata (Great or sublime India) and is six times the size of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined. The main story centres around two parties (actually cousins) of an ancestral kingdom.
There was tremendous discord or rivalry between the two parties, in which Sri Krishna – a divine incarnation or the descent of God in human form – tried to intercede and bring peace. The Battle of Kurukshetra is the war that resulted, when all acts of diplomacy failed.
Dhritarashtra, the blind King, had 100 sons, the eldest, Duryodhana, was evil incarnate and had a tremendous love of power. His father, the King, was also very fond of him. They were known as Kauravas. Pandu, Dhritarashtra’s younger half-brother, had five sons of which Arjuna was the main hero. They were known as Pandavas.
Yudhishthira, the eldest son of Pandu, was a model of righteousness and Light. As Dhritarashtra was blind, Yudhishthira was the natural heir to the throne. However, neither the blind King nor his first son was prepared to yield and although great heroes and Seers were brought in to make peace, the war could not be averted.
Sri Krishna appeared on the scene between the two parties, trying to talk peace but there was already a sense of impending doom and the war eventually happened.
Quintessence of the Gita
The quintessence of the Gita is not the battle of Kurukshetra, but the spiritual conversation between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, as related by Sanjaya, an observer. He was given the sight of psychic inner vision by Vyasa, a Sage, to see the events as they happened and relate it to the blind King, even from a far distance.
As Christianity offers the Gospel of Christ to seekers, so too, the East offers the Gita of Sri Krishna to Hinduism. Yet the Gita is not bound to the East, but is ‘God’s Heart and man’s breath, God’s assurance and man’s promise. It teaches what is called the Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Religion or Truth is One), which is called by many names.
“Seven hundred verses are there in the Gita. About six hundred are the soul-stirring utterances from the divine lips of Lord Krishna, and the rest are from the crying, aspiring Arjuna, the clairvoyant and clairaudient Sanjaya, and the inquisitive Dhritarashtra” -Sri Chinmoy.
I would add that the King would have been given psychic vision by the Sage, but he had a sense of impending doom and did not wish to see his children being killed.
The Gita is said to be the greatest pride of the East … of India and the mother of all scriptures. It is lucid, powerful and authoritative in its teachings. It has eighteen chapters, each revealing a specific form of Yoga – the science that teaches us to become one with the transcendental soul (The Absolute Supreme). Here are some key teachings in the Gita:
The Four Yoga’s Plus:
- Bhakti – the path of devotion; Karma – the path of selfless action; Jnana Yoga – the path of Knowledge; Raja Yoga – the Kingly or mystical path.
- The Immortality of the Soul
- The three Gunas or Modes of Life. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas
- Dharma – the inner code of life, sometimes translated as righteousness or duty. More later.
- Karma and Reincarnation. They go together.
- Surrender to God
The Gita was born about 600 B.C and its authorship is credited to Vyasa, the Sage. The whole narrative begins with a significant question asked by Dritharastra and Sanjaya answers, narrating the battle and the teachings of Lord Krishna. Sri Chinmoy’s lofty utterance describes the Gita thus:
“The Gita is the epitome of the Vedas. It is spontaneous. It is in a form at once divinized and humanized. It is also the purest milk drawn from the udders of the most illumining Upanishads to feed and nourish the human soul.” -Sri Chinmoy
Guruji continues in his authoritative style:
“The Gita demands man’s acceptance of life, and reveals the way to achieve the victory of the higher self over the lower by the spiritual art of transformation: physical, vital, mental, psychic and spiritual.” -Sri Chinmoy
Teachings of the Gita:
Sri Krishna teaches Arjuna quite lucidly and authoritatively, about the immortality of the soul. Christianity teaches us of a body and soul, but for what ever reason, we go about believing we are a body and as such are driven by body-consciousness. The East is just as bad in terms of this kind of vanity, but they seem to understand Sri Krishna’s teachings, as it is so well explained.
In the West we are a body that has a soul. We have been feeding the body from birth, but we have forgotten to feed the soul, even though all scriptures, both East and West, contain ‘recommendations’ or rules to follow, for our spiritual progress. Not so in the East.
Lord Krishna makes it clear that we are in fact the Atman, (the soul) and the body is an instrument of the soul, which is indestructible and immortal. Some of his famous lines in the Gita goes like this:
“Weapons cannot cleave the soul.
Fire cannot burn the soul.
Water cannot drench the soul;
Wind cannot dry the soul.” -The Bhagavad Gita
The soul is part and parcel of Brahman (The Absolute), a spark of the Divine and the goal of life is for the Atman (the soul), to merge into the Paramatman, the Supreme Soul and become one … the Self. According to Sri Chinmoy, the Heart is the shrine and the soul is the deity within the shrine. They are not outside us, but within.
What’s needed in life is for both the inner life and outer life to blend in harmony, as man is literally made in the image of Spirit and there is a mystical side to his nature. Man’s constant struggle, is due to a disobedience or lack of awareness (Avidya or ignorance) of the Higher universal laws. He is outwardly focused, following the ways of modern consumerism and as such pain or affliction is inevitable.
This concludes Part1 of the Gita. Part 2 will come in a couple of days with a stronger emphasis on Spirituality and Sri Krishna’s teachings, some of which have been bulleted above. In his teachings, there is no East or West. All is Consciousness; the Creator and Its creation are one and we are all parts of the same life-stream of the Absolute Brahman or Supreme.
This projection of Silence into sound we call Creation and is necessary for what is called a Lila or Divine game. The play of God or Consciousness. We call it the Song of The Transcendental Soul, as it is not fixed and in fact is always evolving, into the ever-transcending beyond. To be continued …
Manatita, The Lantern Carrier. 11th December, 2019
Credit: To Sri Chinmoy, my Spiritual Director and his Commentary on The Bhagavad Gita: The Song of The Transcendental Soul.
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