Religion & Spirituality | 10 Chapters
Author: Ram Prakash Singhal
Gita leads us from spiritual infancy to maturity, impulsive irrationality to intelligent rationalism, and agitation to tranquility. ‘G-OO-D’ contains two ‘O’s between ‘G’, the God, and ‘D’, the Devil. First ‘O’ near ‘G’ denotes Obeisance to God; and second ‘O’, near Devil, denotes Obfuscation. Eliminate Obfuscation from life to see God in everything ‘Good’. Ego and prejudice are the earplugs that stop us from ....
Blessings of a Guru
(Guruji Shri G. Narayana (77) is Chairman Emeritus of Excel Industries Ltd. and chairman and director of several other companies, but his life’s mission is to channelize inner light & potential of people, especially the entrepreneurs and corporate managers, to work for bliss, peace & harmony in society. For this, he is actively associated with Management Associations of Ahmedabad & Baroda besides others. In spite of being honored with much recognition from global institutions for promoting world spirituality, his modesty and simplicity are unmatched. Presently, he stays at Vadodara and also serves at Shri Sitarama Seva Sadan, Mantrapuri, Telangana, India. He invests his time, energy and resources in the spiritual awakening of people and serving them. As such, he is Jeevan Mukt, a soul liberated in his life time, because all his activities are for Lok Sangrah i.e. for the good of people. In my opinion, he is an embodiment of accomplished Yogee of Gita.
An author of more than 500 books, including some on Gita, he very kindly spared his valuable time to read few excerpts of this treatise on Gita and blessed it in following words)
“DEAR RAMPRAKASH JI,
Many thanks for sending few excerpts of your exhaustive work on Srimad Bhagavadgita, the inspiring guide light for humanity. This inspiring, innovative, insightful and integrated work will be of great value for learners, teachers, researchers as well as spiritual guides. The meaning, message, explanation and commentary of each shlok are of master class. The manner in which you have given cross-references and interconnections between spiritual thoughts of major world religions & Holy Scriptures as well as quotes of great personalities is commendable since it enhances Gita’s universal spirit and scope of application to everybody’s life in multi-dimensional ways. In addition, effective compounding of Sanskrit, Hindi and English makes the book to touch the hearts and souls of different people in a super-connective way.
Your inspiring writing is very valuable for all human beings across the globe irrespective of faith, culture and spiritual thoughtways, as you have put in great effort to forge unity and harmony amongst them. Readers shall achieve inner peace and fulfillment while studying and grasping its approach of spiritually integration and unification of world community into one family.
Your unique style of writing and its contribution is truly admirable.
With deep, hearty Congratulations to you, greetings and best wishes to readers, and,
With Aum and Prem”
January 2019, Vadodara.
Good Words From Like-Minded Friends
“Wow! You have completed your herculean work – a Treatise on Gita. What a scholarly work of not only explaining the Shloks but also what they advocate to live a spiritual life, caring for duty and not the outcome. I am thrilled to read the e-mail and attached excerpts from the treatise. What a novel way to link Gita’s teachings to the works of varied India’s Sages and Sants! What a simple innovative work to bring attention of the world towards Gita! My unceasing respects, laudatory salutes and well-deserve kudos to you.
I am very fortunate to be your classmate and a friend.”
Om P. Bahethi, Ph.D.
Vienna, Virginia, USA
“I consider myself one of the few fortunate and privileged ones to whom you have thought to send a copy of Gita you have penned. It is, in fact, a herculean task to understand the message of a Great Scripture like Gita, which took place almost five thousand years ago, and explain it in a simple language, understandable by a common person. Your effort to substantiate subject matter by giving various similes, quotes, anecdotes, and relate it day-to-day life is very valuable for all human beings struggling for peace & happiness in today’s world.
I highly appreciate and salute your arduous endeavor of putting forth Gita, and thereby enlightening & elevating mental level of the society to higher spiritual plane.”
– Kedar Govind Tambe,
K.B.Mehta Construction Pvt.Ltd. Ahmedabad
(If you can’t explain it simply,
you don’t understand it well enough)
– Albert Einstein
OH NO! ONE MORE BOOK ON GITA!
It could be the most likely response to this book also. Let me therefore explain why I ventured to undertake writing this treatise on Gita.
The first and foremost reason for me to undertake this gigantic task is personal, as I have no craving for recognition as an author, nor for monetary gains but for ‘स्वान्त: सुखाय’ i.e. ‘my own bliss’ as it opened new windows for me to understand and practice Gita.
Gita is not only a Holy Scripture of Hinduism. It is the spiritual gospel delivered by God Himself for the benefit of entire humanity, and its application is universal. While writing it, I have immensely benefitted by the experiences, explanations, comments, views and translations of many great thinkers & scholars, and put the learning in subjective and spiritual form. I bow to them, with humility and great respect. At the same time, I request readers to forgive me for the errors, omissions, misinterpretations, lapses, mistakes, or unintentional arrogance etc., which would be wholly mine. Some errors must have also crept in while explaining some matter from Sanskrit to English for the latter developed in a place geographically far apart, and in different socio-cultural environment.
Many great Rishis, teachers and learned scholars have written on Gita. After reading scores of such treatises for my whole life, I found that they limited the scope of their works to support Hinduism, or their own sect, or personal thoughts. In their zeal, they overlooked explaining its universal message that crosses all geographical, linguistic, religious, social, communal and cultural boundaries. In fact, Gita teaches entire humanity how to attain liberation from grief and stress and lead a blissful life without renouncing duty and beauty of the world. I have called this teaching as Samagr Yog, the sum total of various practices of Yog described in Gita.
I have tried to explain Gita in a very simple and practical manner by substantiating every thought with numerous examples & similes, inspiring anecdotes, quotes & legends from Holy Scriptures of major religious faiths across the globe, quotes & life sketches of great people, poetry, film songs, day to day real life situations, and phenomena of nature. I have also done analyses by posing some questions and answering them with best of my ability, clarifying some apparent contradictions, deriving moral lessons and raising cautions as relevant to subject matter of discussion. .This treatise is the result of over 5 years of my whole hearted dedicated effort and penning down soulful thoughts.
Readers of all age groups, curious to understand Gita but think it a dry, super-spiritual scripture, would immensely benefit from this treatise because I have tried my level best to keep their interest alive, and continue reading. Besides acquiring spiritual knowledge, they would be able to apply its teachings in their quotidian life, and attain bliss & peace. However, I would like to quote Tulasidaas from Raamcharit Maanas ‘सोइ जानहि जेहि देहि जनाहि’ i.e. ‘He only can know Him, whom He lets know’. It implies that to understand God’s message properly, it is necessary for us to de-clutter our minds and be simple hearted like Arjun.
At the end, I invoke God’s propitious blessings in our joint quest to acquire divine knowledge of Gita. I pray Him to become our Saarathee, the charioteer, and steer the chariots of our lives in the Great Battlefield of world, as He did for Arjun in Mahaabhaarat. May He motivate them who couldn’t find time to study Gita earlier but are keen to do it now; and also them who are already conversant with it but desire to learn more, and put its teachings into practice. Let the last shlok 18/78 of Gita be the lighthouse of inspiration in our study:
“It is my firm conviction that where there is Krishn, the supreme Lord & Master of Yog, and where there is a supreme archer like Arjun, there alone shall be prosperity, wealth & opulence; victory & dignity; and stable, ethical morality.”
श्रीकृष्णार्पणमस्तु I (I offer my work to Shree Krishn, the God personified)!
– Ram Prakash Singhal
Thane, Maharashtra, India
(Understanding of life mapped out by Krishn in His scientific and logical discourse in Gita, does transform the thought pattern of its student, as he discovers for himself a new purpose and a clearer vision of the goal of his life)
– Swami Chinmayaanand
The picture that comes to one’s mind immediately upon the mention of Gita is as below:
(We see the battlefield of Kuru Kshetr where two armies positioned on each side are eager to commence Mahaabhaarat, the Great Indian War. Its dry, yellow colored ground is going to turn into red mud soon with the imminent bloodshed. The right side sky looks brighter compared to grayish on the left side as if reflecting the moods of both armies. Kauravs on the left look excited and aggressive because of superiority in numbers but Paandavs on the right are calm & confident in spite of low numbers. Parked in between the two armies, there is a grand chariot yoked with four spotless white horses impatient to charge. A two-tailed saffron flag flying atop this chariot bears the insignia of mighty ape god Hanumaan, the faithful servant of Raam, an avatar of God. The man seated in the chariot has a mixed expression of nervousness and confusion on his face though his body is fully protected with steel armor. Nevertheless, his eyes reflect hope of deliverance. He is Arjun, the owner of the chariot. His formidable bow is hanging loosely on his right shoulder, and the quiver is lying on the floor. With folded hands, he is making a request to his charioteer Krishn, easily recognized by His peacock feathered crown and Peetaambar, the simple yellow robe. A very bright circle of divine aura surrounds His slightly grey complexioned face aglow with eternal bliss and calm, as if casting the spell of a full moon in the backdrop of gloomy sky. With eyes full of compassion, He is looking backwards at Arjun, restraining impatient horses simultaneously with reins in left hand and a whip in the other.)
LEGENDARY BACKGROUND OF GITA
Since Gita is a part of the great Indian epic Mahaabhaarat scripted by sage Ved Vyaas, it is necessary to go through relevant legendary part of Mahaabhaarat briefly given below.
Vichitraveerya, the king of Hastinaapur and son of Shaantanu, had two sons namely Dhrutraashtr and Paandu, born by a boon from sage Ved Vyaas. Since Dhrutraashtr was born blind, the nobles made Paandu the king of Hastinaapur after the death of Vichitraveerya. Soon thereafter, Paandu went to live in the forest for some time with his two wives, Kuntee and Maadree, with a hope to recover from some mysterious ailment. There, he had 3 sons named Yudhishthir, Bheem and Arjun from Kuntee; and the twin sons named Nakul and Sahadev from Maadree. Dhrutraashtr ruled Hastinaapur as caretaker in the absence of Paandu. However, when Paandu succumbed to his incurable disease in the forest, Maadree committed Sati
Kuntee, with five young sons collectively called Paandavs, returned to Hastinaapur after Paandu’s death. She painfully realized it soon that Dhrutraashtr (supposed to act as a caretaker) was in full and firm command of the kingdom of Hastinaapur along with his ambitious and atrocious son Duryodhan and other 99 sons collectively called Kauravs. The latter started disputing legitimate claim of Paandavs on the throne. They made several vile attempts to eliminate them, even by killing, but never succeeded. Paandavs, in order to avoid a family feud, gracefully accepted partition of the Empire, left Hastinaapur and settled in Khaandavaprasth, a very hostile forestland allotted to them. By their dedicated hard work, they developed it into a very prosperous Empire and renamed it Indraprasth that outshined Hastinaapur. Krishn, their cousin as son of maternal uncle Vasudev and king of Dwaarikaa guided, helped and stood with them all along in their tragic times. They in turn, reposed full faith and love for Him. Jealous of newly created wealth of Paandavs, Kauravs conspicuously lured them into playing a Game of Dice and defeated them in it due to cunning maneuvers and trickery of Shakuni, the maternal uncle of Kauravs. Paandavs lost everything to Kauravs including their kingdom Indraprasth. They lived for 12 years in exile in the forests, followed by living incognito in the 13th year to fulfill pre-decided terms of the Game of dice sincerely. Upon expiry of the 13th year, they asked Kauravs to return Indraprasth to them in accordance with the Game agreement. Kauravs did not honor the agreed terms and refused.
All attempts to persuade Dhrutraashtr and Duryodhan for a peaceful settlement failed. Krishn Himself made the last attempt for peace with a proposal to allot five villages to Paandavs but Duryodhan refused pointblank saying he would not part with a land equal in area to even the point of a sharp needle without a fight. The result was inevitable. Paandavs, had no alternative but to fight and get back Indraprasth from Kauravs were not ready to part with their ill-gotten Empire. A strong army of 18 Akshauhinee (equal to 40 million approximately), 11 of Kauravs and 7 of Paandavs, assembled in the battlefield of Kuru Kshetr and started fighting in the ‘Great Indian War’ called Mahaabhaarat with determination to swing the result in their favor.
Let us go back a bit here to know where Gita appears in the epic Mahaabhaarat. When both the warring factions finally decided for war, Ved Vyaas (the composer as well as a character in the epic) blessed Sanjay, the friend cum attendant of Dhrutraashtr, with divine vision that enabled him to see all events happening in the war while sitting in Hastinaapur, and narrate them to his blind master Dhrutraashtr. However, since Dhrutraashtr declined to listen about the destruction of his grand Kuru family, Sanjay went to the battlefield. At the close of ten days of fierce fighting that resulted in great numerical losses on both sides, Bheeshm, the Commander-in-Chief of Kaurav army, fell on the ground by the arrows shot by Arjun. Sanjay then, rushed back to Hastinaapur and informed Dhrutraashtr of this great loss on 11th morning. Dhrutraashtr became immensely tense on hearing it.
This is the point where Gita is located in Mahaabhaarat. It starts with first shlok spoken by anxious Dhrutraashtr to Sanjay ’Dharm Kshetre Kuru Kshetre … Akurvat Sanjay’. The same Dhrutraashtr, who was initially not interested in listening to daily account of the war from Sanjay, suddenly becomes anxious to know the details of what actually happened in the battlefield from day one that resulted in the downfall of the brave, invincible general Bheeshm. His hope of the victory of his sons against Paandavs was pinned entirely on the war skills of Bheeshm. Above question springs from the tongue of an indecisive king, torn between infatuation for his wicked children, and the guilt of unjust treatment meted to the virtuous children of his deceased brother.
Sanjay, blessed by divine vision given by Vyaas, recapitulates what happened in Kuru Kshetr before the war began on 1st day, and narrates it to Dhrutraashtr in remaining 699 Shloks of Gita. Note that Mahaabhaarat remains silent about Gita for 10 days of war in Kuru Kshetr and reveals it to readers only when Sanjay speaks to Dhrutraashtr in Hastinaapur on 11th day. He punctuates this narration actively with his observations and comments throughout Gita. The divine, spiritual dialogue of Gita between Arjun, bewildered about his duty, and Krishn, his charioteer cum Guru teaching him Swadharm, his duty, is contained within this narration of Sanjay. In it, Arjun puts forth his problems & doubts to Krishn, raises many pertinent questions, and Krishn provides their solutions & clarifications in a very cordial, explicit manner.
Thus, Gita appears in Mahaabhaarat Bheeshm Parv chapters 25 to 42 when Sanjay narrates it to Dhrutraashtr on 11th day of war. Though this information is not much relevant to our study, it would help those who may look for Gita in Mahaabhaarat text.
SYMBOLIC AND SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVES OF GITA
Simile of a chariot appears for the first time in Veds where a king named Kuts is Rathee
‘He who wants the chariot of his life to tread on the path of knowledge, must command his intelligence, the charioteer, to rein the horses of sensory organs by controlling them with the whip of mind, and move forward on his journey to achieve liberation from the distress in the world’
Vyaas modified the simile of chariot in Kathopanishad with more imagination and incorporated it in Gita. He replaced the soul with Arjun, a highly confused and stressed person unable to decide his duty. Then he substituted Buddhi, the intelligence, by Krishn, the God incarnate, in charioteer’s seat. Since Nachiketaa, a pure hearted child, is the knowledge seeker in Kathopanishad, it was befitting for Yam to put his intelligence in the place of charioteer. However, Vyaas considered it fit to hand over to God the chariot of Arjun, also a seeker of knowledge in Gita, because Moh, the delusion, corrupts his intelligence. In Kathopanishad, Yam advises Nachiketaa to command his intelligence to control the horses from straying on the path of passion, and direct them on the path of knowledge. However, as Arjun, the Rathee of Gita is highly deluded; he must seek total refuge in his Saarathee, God, and request Him to drive the chariot of his life on the path He considers best for him. Nachiketaa knew well his destination in Kathopanishad, but Arjun, in Gita, has no idea where he ought to go, ‘to quit the battle or fight’.
Let us extend this simile further keeping above picture in mind. Krishn is the inner conscience of a distressed individual like Arjun, and sitting next to him, He is always available to give proper counsel and guidance. Mahaabhaarat depicts the battle between positive and negative thoughts going on in our minds in the Kuru Kshetr of life whenever we face battle like situations that demand quick decision and correct action. The Paandav army on the left side (the side of heart in human body) consists of Daivee Sampadaa, the wealth of virtues and meritocracy, and Kauravs on the right depict Aasuree Sampadaa, the devilish, vicious wealth (Gita shall describe Daivee and Aasuree Sampadaa in chapter 16). Thus, the battle of Mahaabhaarat symbolizes the conflict between virtuous and vicious thoughts before we decide to act in real life situations. The decision distorts if mind lets loose reins of the horses of senses, allows them to run after passions and desires and plunge the chariot of life in the gorge of Vikaars, the disorders that agitate our mind further. When disorders of Kaam, the desire, Krodh, the anger, Lobh, the covetousness, Moh, the bewilderment, Mad, the frenzy and Matsar, the envy forge an alliance with self-interests, they create a chaotic state of indecision and confusion (described by Arjun in Gita in 1/29 & 30). Then, we are torn between Daivee and Aasuree Sampadaa as they pull us on their sides, rendering our physical and mental faculties dull. As a result, we sometimes become nervous and melancholic like Arjun, and at other times, we become egoist like Duryodhan.
Thus, Mahaabhaarat war is not only a legendary battle fought between Kauravs and Paandavs, but also a fight between Dharm, the Godliness, and Adharm, the ungodliness, in a person’s life. At society level, it also symbolizes conflicts between positive, virtuous people on one side trying tooth and nail, to stop the negative, vicious people from realizing their evil ambitions on the other side; and thereby maintain morality, law and order.
HISTORY OF GITA AS A SCRIPTURE
As mentioned above, Ved Vyaas, the greatest sage contemporary of Krishn & Arjun, scripted Gita. Though names of some characters of Mahaabhaarat like Krishn, His mother Devakee, Dhrutraashtr, Vichitraveerya etc. appear in some earlier scriptures, most historians estimate the period of Mahaabhaarat & Gita around 3200 B.C. We should therefore realize the socio-religious structure that prevailed in India in that long distant past, and read Gita in that light. Due to cultural and political upheavals, which subsequently took place, the original Gita or some of its portions might have been lost with passage of time; and its different versions might have appeared in the society. Then, Aadi Shankaraachaarya (788 to 820 A.D.) revived, compiled and presented Gita to the society in its most authentic form and named it Shreemad Bhagawad Gita, popularly called Gita, followed till today universally. He also located Jyotisar, a small town 8.4 km away from Kuru Kshetr, as the place where Krishn taught Gita to Arjun. An old banyan tree standing there is believed to be the sacred tree under which Gita was narrated. It is a place of pilgrimage for all Hindus.
In the period intervening Ved Vyaas and Aadi Shankaraachaarya, many Rishis and scholars also composed several treatises and scriptures due to immense reverence and popularity of Shreemad Bhagwad Gita. We should however, not confuse with them with original Gita.
COMPOSITION AND FORMAT OF GITA
Gita is feminine gender word for Geet, the divine song sung by God. It is written in Sanskrit, Devanaagaree script, translated later in many languages of the world. Readers of translated versions of Gita should keep it in mind that the translator of an original work is able to present it only to the extent he could understand and interpret it himself.
Gita contains 700 verses called shloks, spread in 18 chapters. The name of each chapter is suffixed with the word Yog e.g. first chapter is called Arjun Vishaad Yog. As explained under the legendary background above, Gita is in the form of a dialogue mainly between Krishn and Arjun in the midst of the battlefield of Kuru Kshetr where the fight between Paandavs and Kauravs began on the first day of war. Total 59 Uvaach, the speeches of different people, take place in it starting with first Uvaach of 1 Shlok of Dhrutraashtr spoken to Sanjay. The subsequent Uvaach are: 9 spread in 40 shloks by Sanjay to Dhrutraashtr; 21 spread in 85 shloks by Arjun to Krishn and balance 28 spread in 574 shloks spoken by Shree Bhagawaan i.e. Krishn, the God of Gita. Each shlok is composed and balanced metrically as Chhand, a metrical verse conforming to Sanskrit grammar. Most of the shloks are in Pashya vaktr Anushtup style of Chhand that consists of 32 Maatraa, the metrical instants.
Hindus consider number 9 very sacred and pious because it is Poornaank, the highest single digit integer, equivalent to numerical manifestation of God. Addition of both numerals in the table of 9 always gives 9 e.g. 1+8=9; 2+7=9; 3+6=9. Certainly, it is not mere coincidence but a conscious effort of Vyaas due to his regard for number 9 (or its multiples) that Mahaabhaarat consists of 18 Parv; Mahaabhaarat war lasted 18 days; total strength of both armies was 18 Akshauhinee; Gita consists of 18 chapters; and the topic of Sthitprajn comprises of 18 shloks. Above all, God teaches Gita in 27 (2+7=9) Uvaach. Besides, Vyaas also composed 18 Puraans, the legendary scriptures. It points to the supremacy of his works over other scriptures as number 9 has supremacy over other numbers. I feel that if Vyaas were alive today, he would gladly confirm this hypothesis.
THE PREMISES ON WHICH GITA STANDS
As Gita is a part of Mahaabhaarat, the greatest epic dealing with Hindu way of life, it is imperative that Gita also should have its premises on the four main ethos and beliefs of contemporary Hindu culture and religious practices. Though we would deal with various aspects related with these premises in our study later, I feel it important to acquaint with them at introduction stage for better and faster understanding of Gita. The four main pillars, on which the grand building of Gita stands, are:
1. First pillar is theism, the belief in God
Belief in God is one of the main platforms of Gita. It visualizes God as the Supreme Being present in everything in the universe; also the originator, maintainer, controller and the ultimate refuge of everything including the universe. Gita’s idea of God is very flexible as it supports all the four concepts and methods of worshipping God listed below:
1. Nirgun Niraakaar, quality less and formless as Brahm;
2. Sagun Saakaar, with qualities and a form like Raam, Krishn, Vaaraah etc.;
3. Nirgun Saakaar, quality less but with a form like Vishnu, Shiv; and,
4. Sagun Niraakaar, having qualities but without form like energy, space, soul.
God of Gita is all of above taken individually or collectively or in any combination in His universal, individual, spiritual, mental, physical, natural, abstract or any other manifested or unmanifested form. His divinity manifests in the best qualities and forms of all living species and inert entities. He dwells inside as well as outside of every entity. Spiritually speaking, Gita also mentions Aatmaa or Purush, the soul; Paramaatmaa or Param Purush, the Supreme Soul; Jeevaatmaa, the embodied soul; Sat, the real existence & absolute truth; Asat, the unreal non-existence, Chitt or Man, the conscience consisting of mind, intelligence and heart, as part or full description of God. Krishn, with his various synonyms and adjectives, is the personified avatar of God in Gita, as we would see Him speaking in first person as God frequently. Since theism has to be the main platform of any spiritual discussion, Gita cannot be an exception. Nevertheless, it also admits and openly discusses various schools of thoughts like Saamkhya or Jnaan, Paatanjal Yog, pantheism i.e. God is everything and everything is God, Dwait, the dualism, Adwait, the monism or non-dualism, Vishisht Adwait, the qualified non-dualism etc. besides Karm, the action and Bhakti, the devotion.
God of Gita is the most virtuous and supreme among all living and inert entities of the universe. In other words, whatever superior and positive thoughts, emotions, deeds, characters, behaviors exist among living beings; and also the virtuous qualities and merits in inert entities of nature like the coolness in moonlight and the heat in sunlight; all of them are manifestations of God’s supremacy. Gita devotes entire chapter 10 Vibhooti Yog to explain this concept where it proclaims that the best of every species and entity is a reflection of God. As ‘Beauty lies in the eye of beholder’, similarly positivity lies in one’s thoughts. God is that beauty and positivity spread all around us in the universe. This thought of seeing God everywhere must have prompted Voltaire to pronounce:
‘If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him’.
For, the idea of God and its acceptance is the most soul satisfying.
If we re-configure the word good as ‘G-OO-D’ with two ‘O’s separating ‘G’ i.e. God, and ‘D’ i.e. Devil, the first ‘O’ nearer to ‘G’ stands for Obeisance, a virtue dear to God as stated in 9/26. However, the second ‘O’ stands for Obfuscation i.e. confusion and bewilderment created by allowing self-interest to occupy centre-stage in every matter. Note that second ‘O’ is nearer as well as dearer to Devil. If we remove Obfuscation from our life, the ‘Good’ that we see all around us, transforms into God.
2. Second pillar is Karm, the action and Karm Phal, the result of action
In essence, it means that every person is responsible for his actions. He gets rewards for his good deeds; and punishment for his evil deeds. His every action thus bounces back on him in the form of a pleasant or unpleasant result. It is similar to Newton’s law of action and reaction. This is what most other religions also teach us. Nevertheless, the beauty of Gita is that it lifts a person, from the physical, materialistic level of this concept, to the highest plane of spirituality by lending a great value addition to it with its unique doctrine of Nishkaam Karm. It teaches him to perform his allotted duty without any consideration of self-interest; and remain detached from its result by leaving it to the divine justice of God. If a man leads his life in this way, he is freed from Karm Bandhan, the bonds of his actions. Then, he is not subjected to the principle of rewards or punishment anymore in his current life or after it because his every action becomes neither Punya nor Paap but pure duty. In this way, he can achieve Mukti, the liberation, from the pangs of dualities of the world. Tulasidaas states in Raamcharit Maanas 2/218/4:
करम प्रधान बिस्व करि राखा। जो जस करइ सो तस फलु चाखा॥
(Karm, the action, is the most important element of functioning of universe. One must taste the fruit of his doing.)
The fruit shall be tasty or bitter depending upon the actions we perform. We shall acquire in depth knowledge about Karm later in our study but let us ponder over it a little here.
Human society has developed systems of punishment for crime and reward/recognition for good work. Why did such systems evolve in human society only, not in animal world? The answer obviously is the need of humans to co-exist and progress in an orderly manner by supporting and uplifting the standard of common welfare. Every person is therefore obliged to perform his duties properly to fulfill this overall human goal of co-existence and cooperation. Matrimony, family, property, development, production, law, morality, religion, administration, education, health care, judiciary etc. are few such fine systems and institutions developed laboriously by human race. A righteous, well-intentioned person follows them, contributes in overall improvement of the society and enjoys the collective gain in return by similar performances of other likeminded persons. Society honors and rewards its outstanding, highly acclaimed performers in recognition of their contributions; and punishes those who work against them. This is the doctrine of Karm established and made applicable to human society by its founding fathers, leaders and Scriptures. However, we also see in the world that an innocent, virtuous person often gets punishment, whereas a sinner moves around freely. For example, Galileo was sentenced to life imprisonment for proclaiming the universal truth of earth moving around the Sun; and vice-versa is not true. Such injustice takes place in human societies because their laws, systems and institutions, based on limited human knowledge, are inadequate. Nevertheless, Gita assures us of dispensation of perfect justice by omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent God, the supreme judge of the divine court because He Himself witnesses everybody’s works, and rewards the righteous ones and punishes the sinners accordingly. Since God is the promulgator of the law of Karm & Karm Phal, His judgment is not subjected to judgmental error of people like advocates, witnesses, social laws etc.
We must bear another important fact in mind that human society is just a small, insignificant fraction of the Universe whose biggest constituent is nature with its other constituents like various living species, vegetation, materials, Triguns, the three modes of good, medium & bad, Panch Tattv, the 5 basic elements, Panch Tanmaatraa, the 5 senses etc. Nature, as we know, is in constant flux and all pervasive; and it is more so in the present era since the impact of human activities on it are assuming far-reaching proportions. We must also realize that most of the human systems, institutions and activities are unfortunately in violation and contradiction of nature’s universal laws. Nature, being gentler than we are, tolerates much of our wrong doings but it does take appropriate corrective actions as and when required. In spiritualism, the divine court of ultimate justice is of God or His agents, the demigods, nature and the Cosmos named as ऋत् (Rit) by Vedic sages. The law of Rit works for the ultimate well-being of all partakers and stakeholders of the universe, not for humans alone. Gita has woven this interdependence and relationship between humans and all other constituents of universe in its doctrine of Karm. It says that in this or any of our next lives (not necessary to be human) we would have to consume the results of what we do in current life. For example, if we harm a tree in this life, we would be punished for it in this or next lives regardless of whether the judiciary systems of human society consider it as an offence or not. The timing, method and amount of punishment or reward for our deeds depends on the divine law applicable universally but incomprehensible by human intelligence for it takes many factors, inaccessible to senses & intelligence, into consideration. In Hindu mythology, its manifest form is the court of Yam, which decides and passes judgment on the works done in this world by every soul.
3. Third pillar is Punarjanm, the repetitive cycles of birth and death
Logically, it is an extension of the theory of Karm and Karm Phal described under point 2 above. According to it, all living beings, including humans and other species, are bound to take birth, die, and take rebirth to lead a new life again. These cycles of death and rebirth continue perpetually in order to make them consume (enjoy or suffer) the reactions of their actions in previous or current lives. Humans have been however, bestowed with freedom to simultaneously perform new works also after every rebirth but with full ownership and responsibility for the quality of their works and consequent results. This freedom provides them with opportunities to do good works and liberate from Karm Bandhan.
Take the case of a person like Dhrutraashtr who appears happy in Mahaabhaarat in spite of engaging in evil deeds, but actually, he suffers with the prick and pin of his conscience all along his life for his evil thoughts & deeds. Conversely, if a person suffers even after performing good deeds, he certainly enjoys the joy and satisfaction of doing something good because ‘Virtue is thy own reward’. Some readers may or may not accept Punarjanm, but would certainly agree with Mirza Gaalib who opined thus about the reality of heaven & hell:
‘हम को मालूम है जन्नत की हक़ीक़त लेकिन,
दिल के बहलाने को गालिब ये ख़याल अच्छा है’
(I am aware of the realities of Heaven, but its idea is very amusing to Gaalib’s heart)
4. Fourth pillar is Varn, the caste system
Though Gita prescribes a social order consisting of four main castes: Braahman, Kshatriy, Vaishya and Shoodr, it does not profess caste by birth or family lineage but lays great emphasis on one’s Swadharm, his characteristic nature, professional skills, duties and responsibilities. God goes many steps ahead in 9/32 and declares:
“Those who fully depend on Me, attain their ultimate destination of liberation undoubtedly, whether they are women, or trading merchants, or belong to the service caste, or a sinner born as human, or in any other lower species of living beings”.
Thus, Gita rejects the theory of Caste by Birth. It is unfortunate that the system of Caste by Birth got firmly entrenched later in Hindu society due to false interpretations and forceful propaganda by some self-seekers interested in retaining control and hold on other castes.
I earnestly request readers to repose their faith, at least in the beginning of this study, in above said basics of Gita, as it would catalyze their understanding of its message in a quicker, proper way. Nevertheless, this is not a precondition imposed on sincere students of Gita, for Gita itself is very flexible in its approach. Gita wholeheartedly welcomes even those readers who are skeptical about its founding principles, because its aim is to lead them from spiritual infancy to maturity; from impulsive irrationality to intelligent rationalism; from an agitated mind to serene tranquility. For this, I suggest readers, who wish to avidly pursue study of Gita but feel uncomfortable with its above-mentioned pillars, to replace few words as mentioned below and continue their study:
1. Replace ‘God’ with unified force of nature that creates, sustains and destroys everything.
2. Replace ‘Karm Phal’ with Newton’s third law of motion ‘For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction’. Applied to spirituality it simply means that there is always a force, which acts to create reaction of our every interaction with other entities; and its quality depends squarely on the quality of the intent behind our action. If our action was good, its result is bound to be good. However, if it is sometimes otherwise, we should understand that there was some deficiency in our effort, or there were some other forces, created by some of our earlier actions, acting against it.
3. Replace ‘Punarjanm’ with our remaining current life. And,
4. Replace ‘Varn’ system with professional groups that collectively strive to achieve excellence in their respective fields of activity by helping each other.
I hope this introduction is informative and useful to the students of Gita. Nevertheless, I wish to bring to their attention that Arjun too was full of doubts and prejudices in the beginning of Gita, but he became an enlightened soul after listening to teachings of Krishn; and confirmed in 18/73 ‘करिष्ये वचनं तव’ i.e. ‘I will act according to Your counsel’. I pray that our study also enables us likewise to take the same decision. Gita would have served its purpose well if we can understand and practice its message. Thereafter, Gita and its teacher Krishn would exist in our lives just for reference, to provide a booster dose in times of need. Maria Montessori considered her success as a teacher thus:
“The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist”.
We shall find in our study that Gita first recognizes the existence of distress and sorrow in one’s life, then it systematically analyses their causes and finally prescribes Samagr Yog, a total therapy to lead a moral, virtuous and purposeful life to achieve own bliss, and contribute simultaneously in building a happier society. Gita states it in 1st part of 6/23:
“Know it well that Yog is indeed deliverance from distress; and one can achieve it by isolating his self from conjunction & involvement in material world”.
Gita is a lighthouse for people of all faiths rocking in the boat of life in rough waters of the ocean of world as its beam of light dispels sorrow, ignorance and fear in the vast ocean, and navigates our boats to safe shores of eternal happiness. It is a signboard at the crossroads of various life situations, which directs us towards right path. If understood and practised properly, it provides solutions for most of the difficulties we face at individual as well as society level. Mahatma Gandhi used to say frequently:
‘Whenever I am stuck up, I look towards Gita to find my path forward; it has never failed me in my belief’
Readers belonging to religious faiths other than Hinduism might be under the impression that Gita is the Holy Book of Hindus, like other Holy Books of different religions in the world. It may naturally seem so if viewed superficially in the light of its legendary background. Nevertheless, once they start studying it, they would certainly agree with the opinion of many world-renowned scholars, including followers of different religious faiths also, who held Gita in very high esteem and found it of universal appeal and application. As stated by God in 12/20, it is Dharmyaamrut, the nectar of moral religiosity, which provides immortality to entire humanity, not Hindus alone. Therefore, the best way to understand Gita is to not be stuck up in the literal meanings and translations word by word, or shlok by shlok; or be lost in digging into its historical and mythological relevance or in the labyrinths of its traditional or argumentative explanations offered by some treatises, if our purpose is self-improvement. Instead, as inquisitive seekers of knowledge and enlightenment, we should faithfully study its spiritual, devotional & methodical teachings with open mind, and try to emulate them in practice. As we do so, Gita will unfold its treasure before us more and more enabling us to find most positive and practical solutions for almost all problematic situations in our strife-ridden lives. God assures such a student of Gita in 18/70 thus:
“Whosoever shall study this sacred dialogue, the essence of Dharm, between us, he would have worshipped Me by Jnaan Yajn i.e. the study of pure and perfect spiritual knowledge”.
Raheem motivates us in his couplet thus:
‘जिन खोजा तिन पाइयाँ गहरे पानी पैठ I
जो बौरा डूबन डरा रहा किनारे बैठ II’
(He only shall get the pearl who dares to take a plunge into deep waters in his search. The unwise, afraid of drowning, will continue sitting on the shore.)
Raamkrishn Paramhans told Narendr (Swami Vivekaanand later):
‘He who is afraid of drowning in the pond of Amrut, the divine nectar, can never drink it and attain immortality.’
Maharshi Aurobindo sums up well for us:
“if we steep ourselves in the spirit of this great Scripture (Gita) and, above all if we have tried to live in that spirit, we may be sure of finding in it as much real truth as we are capable of receiving, as well as the spiritual influence and actual help that, personally, we were intended to derive from it.”
Let us request Krishn with folded hands to be our Guru, guide and mentor, and seek His blessings to realize our Dharm, and act accordingly in the battlefield of life.
‘इक बंजारा गाए जीवन का गीत सुनाये I
हम सब जीने वालों को जीने की राह दिखाये II’
(God, the nomadic wanderer, is singing divine song of life that shows us the right way of living)
Let us be ready with folded hands like Arjun and listen to divine song of Gita intently.