The journey from “Dharma” to the “self”, precisely this is the journey of life, which starts by conforming to the righteousness and ends by reaching the ‘self’. So is the journey of a 700 verse long poem, composed amidst the intense-est of the battlefield, none other than the lord himself. The first word of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita is “Dharma” and the last word of the last verse is “mam” i.e. the self, and between flows a stream of views as to how to, meaningfully, undertake this journey.
When we say ‘life’, speaking in the sense of ultimate reality and also as talked in this holy text is the journey which starts not at the birth of the body and ends not at the disposal of this body-mind complex. In the language of ‘modernists’, it starts not with the commencement of an anxiety and ends not with the remedy to it. It is only when one reaches the “self”, this cycle could halt.
There have been several Gitas in the Santana culture, be it Ashtavakra Gita, Uddhava Gita or Rama Gita, but it is Srimad Bhagavad Gita, as sung by Sri Krishna in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, that stands as one of the most popular texts among the contemporary mankind. Seldom one may find a language on the face of the Earth, in which there exists not a translation of Bhagavad Gita, and seldom one may find a social-spiritual world-mover, especially if hailing from the Indian soil, who hasn’t took guidance from and not expressed his thoughts on this rendition on life.
The beauty of this text has been that while its ‘letter’ remains the same, different men interpret the spirit in different ways. Shakaracharya saw Advaita or the non-dualism in it, Ramanujacharya saw Dvaita or the dualism in it, Vivekananda saw non-attachment, Tilak saw Valour, Gandhi saw Non Violence and Prabhupada saw Bhakti or devotion it. This clearly goes with the maxim commonly celebrated in India: “Like the devotee like the God”.
Swami Vivekananda says “Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy – by one, or more, or all of these – and be free.” This is nothing but a reiteration of the essence of the Bhagavad Gita. On the verge of commencement of the great battle, Arjuna trembles and laments on the fact that it is his kinsmen with whom he need to fight. His charioteer Lord Krishna, in order to free him from the bondage of lamentation and from all the other clutches of mind, starts explaining him the essence of Karma Yoga, then moved to Jnana Yoga, then to the Raja Yoga and ultimately showed him the real form of the God and expounds Bhakti Yoga.
This Gita has something for every age group, we just need to have a gentle look at it. Let’s look at two of the verses, which shall be appropriate for someone like us, the youth, who are at the initial stages of the long voyage. In the 62nd and 63rd verse of Chapter no. 2, Sri Krishna says:
“One who contemplates on the sense objects develops attachment towards it. Attachment leads to desire, and desire if remains unfulfilled leads to anger. This anger leads to confusion in mind which further leads to loss of reasoning and loss of reasoning leads to destruction of the person.”
Now, this may seem to be a little absurd on the very first reading. While we are familiar with the aspects like attachment, desire, anger and all, but the very first aspect of this cycle i.e. ‘sense objects’ is something of a concept that we are not able to grasp easily.
Understanding it through the lenses of a common college lad, say, there is a class of students in a co-ed educational institution. A boy gets attracted towards qualities of a girl and starts thinking about her, thinking day in and day out about nothing but her. He is unable to even take a nap and ironically just dreams about the girl. His friends ask as to what has happened to him, and he simply says that he is attached to that girl. Prima facie this attachment seems innocent and romanticized. Now, if everything doesn’t goes in favour of the imagination of this boy, the results may be unwelcoming and destroying for him.
Let’s try to understand this with another simple analogy. We often cling on to our social media handles, we contemplate upon the followers, likes, etc. the moment we upload some new content, and we check the account after every few minutes, because now we are attached to that object. If our desirous feedback is not met, we develop a sense of anger. This anger would reflect in our subsequent content because our mind is in confused and unsettled state. If even after that, the response is not up to the desire, it slowly leads to the loss of reasoning and we end up writing any sort of content in order to gain the desired response. This cycle ultimately leads to nothing but as our destruction as a content generator.
The cycle explained in these verses seem a well-articulated managerial model, capable of a power point presentation before a board. But all of this is easier said than done. It is much easy to write a commentary to explain this, in a similar manner in which we tried to do, here in this piece, but it is extremely hard to follow even a part of this in our practical lives.
Srimad Bhagavad Gita is full to the brim with analysis upon the facets of life, dive into it, and one shall definitely find Krishna saying something which concurs with one’s situation. As Mahatma Gandhi while calling Gita as his mother said “Whenever doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me on face and I see not one ray of hope in the horizon, I turn to the Bhagavad Gita”
But always remember, imbibe the Krishna of Gita and not the krishna-ism or the Gita-ism. Just like following Christianity and not the Christ could be dangerous, following Krishna-ism and not Krishna could be harmful too. And it is Krishna himself who says this towards the end of this rendition in 18:63
“I have explained to you this knowledge that is more secret than all secrets. Now you yourself ponder over it deeply, and then do as you wish.
“यथेच्छसि तथा कुरु”
It is all your wish, whether to consider the Gita as an instruction book or as a religious text or a guiding force. Whether to consider the Mahabharata as a historic event or a work of literature or as an allegory to some deeper truths.
Even if you are an atheist you can understand Gita as something for you, once you de-code this according to the Katha Upanishad. The code which goes like:
“Know that the Self is the rider, and the body the chariot; that the intellect is the charioteer, and the mind the reins”.
So consider yourself as Arjuna, your intellect as Sri Krishna, the body as the five-horsed Chariot (representing the five senses) and your mind as the reigns. It is only when the mind follows the guidance of the intellect that the chariot of life can run with a sense of stability.
Just be Arjuna and surrender to Sri Krishna, the intellect of yours and certainly the victory will be on your side. As Sri Krishna himself proclaims in the very last verse of Gita:
यत्र योगेश्वरः कृष्णो यत्र पार्थो धनुर्धरः । तत्र श्रीर्विजयो भूतिर्ध्रुवा नीतिर्मतिर्मम ॥
Wherever there is Krsna, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion.
When the notes from the flute of bygones reverberate and inspire the present. Let us make sure that we grip our flutes in the correct spirit to enchant the future.
P.S. Today is Mokshada Ekadashi, which celebrated as Gita Jayanti; the day on which Srimad Bhagavad Gita was narrated to Arjuna by Sri Krishna.