BHAGAVAD GITA INTRODUCTION
By Gururaj Mutalik
By Dr.Gururaj Mutalik and Editorial Team
Introduction: Srimad Bhagavad-Gita is the true, perennial philosophy for mankind. For Indians who are guided by the tenets of its Universal Shaswata (Sanatana) Dharma philosophy it represents the ultimate essence, derived from Vedic philosophy, and Upanishadic teaching. The Indian saint, Aurobindo called the Bhagavad-Gita a “true scripture of the human race, a living creation rather than a book, with a new message for every age, and a new meaning for every civilization.”
From the great thinkers of the world, there have been accolades for its profound philosophy:
1. Albert Schweitzer said, “The Bhagavad-Gita has a profound influence on the spirit of mankind by its devotion to God, which is manifested by actions.”
2. Aldous Huxley, a great thinker, likewise eulogized the Bhagavad-Gita, saying, “The Bhagavad-Gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution of endowing value to mankind. It is one of the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed; hence its enduring value is subject not only to India, but to all humanity.”
3. One more great quotation deserves its place here. Henry David Thoreau, a great American philosopher said, “In the morning, I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of Bhagavad-Gita, in comparison with which our modern world, and its literature seems puny and trivial.”
These are just a few of the numerous, spontaneous tributes to this great, scriptural text, whether from the Western world, or from the land of its origin.
The great commentators of Brahma-Sutra, the key-codology for the Vedas and Upanishads, have all interpreted the Bhagavad-Gita in commentaries (Bhashyas).
The Bhagavad-Gita has been accorded a philosophical distinction as one of the three pivotal writings on Sanatana Dharma (Prasthana trayi)—a triad of three works: Upanishads, Brahma-Sutra, and Bhagavad-Gita. For us, the common people, this work serves as a personal counselor teaching us the righteous philosophy for living, and as a guide on the spiritual path of self-realization. The battleground dialogue between Bhagavan Sri Krishna and his dispirited, and dejected friend and disciple, Arjuna, the warrior, becomes, in real life, a living guide for everyone, irrespective of caste, creed, or nationality. It provides answers to countless situations of day-to-day life, and answers the question: Given my circumstance, what is the right thing to do?
As is well known, the setting for the Bhagavad-Gita is the battleground of Kurukshetra, where two great armies clash. One army belongs to the aggressor, Duryodhana, and his clan; on the other side is massed the army of the redoubtable, truthful King Yudhisthira, and his brothers. The latter gets caught in a deceitful game of dice, engineered by Shakuni, the evil genius of Duryodhana. Yudhisthira recklessly gambles away his entire kingdom, and in the process, haplessly subjects his own, beloved wife, Draupadi, to extreme humiliation; this culminates in his long years of exile, and suffering. All negotiations for an honorable settlement—including the diplomacy of Sri Krishna, the friend of Pandavas, and the very incarnation of Divinity—have by now been exhausted. Mobilization of the forces supporting the evil Kauravas, and the righteous Pandavas, has reached the extent of involving every kingdom in the country, and every solider in the kingdoms. Sri Krishna himself, in an ironic display of divine impartiality, has sent his army in support of the Karuravas, and has offered himself as a non-fighting charioteer to his friend and disciple, Arjuna, the great warrior of the Pandavas. The scene is set, the conch shells have been sounded, and the war is about to begin any moment.
It is at this poignant moment that Arjuna requests that Sri Krishna, his charioteer, take the chariot to the center of the field of battle, in order to enable Arjuna to have a closer look at the parties he is confronting, and those whose cause he is espousing to win justice for himself, and his family, including Draupadi, his especially dear consort. One look is all that is needed for him to realize that everyone that matters in the battlefield is his kith and kin—friends and foes, alike. Among the foes are his respected Gurus, the grandfatherly Bhishma, and his venerable teacher, Drona, under whose tutelage he attained his immaculate skills of archery. On his side of the aisle are not only his dearest brothers, but all kith and kin, and friends who have staked their life for his cause. Arjuna realizes that the odds for survival or victory on either side are dicey. This is a battle to the end. The evil attitude of Duryodhana ensures that.
An emotional maelstrom instantly overwhelms Arjuna. He is scared at the brutal consequences of this uncompromising, suicidal war. He asks himself, “For whom am I staking my life? What will I do with the bloodstained victory, if I get one? When the dust settles on the endless massacre, with few survivors left standing, what terrible consequences will arise? What will happen to the orphaned widows and children? What, indeed, will happen to our cherished kula-Dharma? Verily, even our dear, departed forefathers would be deprived of the redeeming rites, and are likely to be doomed to the darkness of hell. How can we undertake such a rash act, staking the entire future of the human race for the lust and enjoyment of victory?—a truly a pyrrhic victory, where the winners are surely the losers!”
His mighty limbs tremble, and go limp; his eyes stream with tears, his heart beats a scary rhythm, he is drenched in sweat, and overcome by nervous tremors. Finally, he throws down his bow and arrows, and pours out his anguish to his trusted friend and guide, affirming that he will not fight.
When Sri Krishna replies to Arjuna, he seeks to restore his friend’s sanity, and balance of mind, by resolving his moral and ethical dilemma, and importantly, his emotional meltdown; the saga of the Bhagavad-Gita begins. The great task involves examining every fundamental question that humans have ever faced: every premise of philosophy, every thread of ethics, and every precept and principle of the ancient teaching of Shaswata Dharma that defines duty, service, and sacrifice.
Although the great discourse is a written record, composed in eighteen chapters containing seven hundred verses, the dialogue must have transpired in a slice of time between Arjuna’s emotional breakdown, and the recovery of his full-fledged spirit, courage, and resolve. The discourse includes the rare and privileged revelation of the grand Divine Universal manifestation of the Almighty, Viswaroopa, which few mortals or gods are privileged to witness. The dialogue ends with Arjuna declaring that his delusions are dissolved with the Divine Grace of Sri Krishna, his friend, and charioteer .
In its entirety, and in its holistic scope, and unlimited relevance, the Bhagavad-Gita transcends being mere counsel to a friend in a perplexed confusion and nervous breakdown, and addresses comprehensively the key questions humans face in the past, present, or future. This is why the great Bhagavad-Gita has been praised by distinguished philosophers, saints, and sages as the perennial philosophy of humanity.
To attempt to write about the basic message of the Bhagavad-Gita, and its eternal relevance is a daunting task. With all humility, having humbly studied this great scriptural text for several years, under spiritual elders, in order to grasp its essential tenets to the extent that we can, we have undertaken the ambitious task of writing this piece to identify, and paraphrase important concepts addressed in the Bhagavad-Gita. This is an act undertaken to learn, and have insights into its concepts for our own spiritual advancement, as much or more as it is undertaken to advance public education. Nevertheless, we are sharing our thinking on this subject to seek interaction from our readers for the ultimate enrichment of our own thinking on the great lessons that the Bhagavad-Gita offers as a divine guide for purposeful living, and beyond.
While the identification and categorization of the concepts appear to make the Gita a disjointed composition of ideas and issues, in reality it is a peerless, philosophy, which seamlessly and systematically probes intricate issues that concern all living beings.
We have identified, and addressed a number of important concepts upon which the Bhagavad-Gita focuses, as enumerated in the table of contents.
It is well said that the Bhagavad-Gita is the essence of all Upanishadic teaching. The Bhagavad-Gita is the nectar of milk, obtained from the entirety of Upanishadic teachings, which serve as the cows, for the enlightenment of those who seek. Arjuna, as a calf, is the greatest beneficiary [i] !
It is in this light, that we, the authors, humbly dedicate this work to Sri Krishna, and seek his grace and blessings.
[i] सर्वोपनिषदो गावः दोग्धा गोपालनन्दनः । पार्थो वत्सः सुधीर्भोक्ता दुग्धं गीतामृतं महत्॥४॥
sarvopaniShado gAvaH dogdhA gopAlanandanaH .
pArtho vatsaH sudhIrbhoktA dugdhaM gItAmRRitaM mahat