Updated: Jul 30, 2021
SHRIMAD BHAGAVAD GITA
_a seeker's interpretation ! An outline
ॐ पार्थाय प्रतिबोधितां भगवता नारायणेन स्वयं,
व्यासेन ग्रथितां पुराणमुनिना मध्ये महाभारतम् ।
अद्वैतामृतवर्षिणीं भगवतीम्- अष्टादशाध्यायिनीम् ,
अम्ब त्वामनुसन्दधामि भगवद्- गीते भवद्वेषिणीम् ॥ १॥
"O Sacred Mother Bhagavad-Gita, you are the One who was imparted to Arjuna by none other than Narayana himself, and was recorded during the time of the Mahabharata by the great sage Vyasa. You are the one who showers the sweetest nectar of the Advaita philosophy. You are bedecked in ornaments made of eighteen precious gems. O Divine Mother, the Destroyer of Samsara, humbly bow down to you.” _ Gita Dhyanam 1
Before getting into the details, let us have a look at the role play. What we hear and read as Gita, in books is a conversation between Arjuna the son of Pandu and Lord Krishna the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, which is being narrated by Sanjaya (the charioteer of the blind King Dhritarashtra and the recipient of the narration), who was granted the supernatural power to witness the war of Kurukshetra without being present in the battlefield.
Dhritarashtra and Pandu were brothers, born to Ambika and Ambalika by the grace of the great sage Vyasa. The family tree goes back to Somvansha (whose great-great grandfather was Moon God himself). Dhritarashtra had a hundred sons and a daughter while Pandu had five sons. As Dhritarashtra was visually challenged, the younger brother Pandu was crowned King but due to his early death Dhritarashtra ascended the throne. When the time came for the throne to be passed to the the rightful heir, there was a dispute, even though all the elders, gurus and those wielding high authority in the dynasty, unanimously averred that Yudhishthira, being the eldest and the son of the King, was the rightful heir to the throne. Duryodhana differed, saying that he was the son of the King and the elder brother and hence, solely held the right to the throne. The dispute prolonged without a solution in sight, leading to a bifurcation of the kingdom.
Duryodhana tried everything to destroy the Pandavas, like poisoning Bheema when they were just children, the plotting of the infamous wax house incident and the plan to conduct an elaborate game of dice with his sly uncle Shakuni, where he tricked Yudhishthira into placing heavy stakes such as his riches, kingdom, brothers, and finally, his wife, Panchali (also known as Draupadi), who was married to all the other four brothers as well. Panchali was humiliated in the court premises. Duryodhana termed her as a 'daasi' (slave) and invited her to come and sit on his lap instead of staying with her husbands. He even asked his brother, Dusshasana, to disrobe her in public. Distraught Panchali begged and pleaded with her husbands, and everyone in the court but none could speak to save her dignity. She finally beseeched her friend and saviour, Krishna, to protect her. When Dusshasana attempted to disrobe her (Draupadi Vastraharana), Krishna showered his grace on her, covering her with yards and yards of cloth, protecting her modesty from being outraged. Dusshasana finally tired of pulling out the endless yards of fabric and, completely exhausted, fell to the ground.
The infuriated Daughter of Fire, Draupadi, at once took an oath that she would leave her lustrous, luxuriant tresses untied till the time she soaked her hair in Duryodhana’s blood (Panchal Shapata). According to the rules of the game of dice, the Pandava brothers were to go for exile for a stipulated period, after which, Duryodhana promised, they would get back their kingdom. But when they got back from exile, they were refused even an inch of land. Lord Krishna tried his level best to discuss and bring about an amicable situation, but none seemed to present itself on the horizon. The only other way out was to wage a war against the Kauravas. The call for War was made and allegiances reminded, and alliances called. Lord Krishna promised that he would not wield any weapon in the battle and offered both Duryodhana and Arjun a choice of either his army or just himself (as the charioteer). Duryodhana chose the army and Arjuna chose Krishna.
When both the armies assembled for war, Arjuna asked Krishna to take his chariot between the two armies so that he may look at those who stand with him as well as those that stand against him. A look at the Kaurava army revealed to Arjuna that he was fighting his family – uncles, grandfathers and nephews. He was grief stricken and refuses to fight. This is when Krishna decides to make him understand the real meaning of life, as Arjuna was completely deluded with maya, the worldly attachments and was weakened just when he needed all the strength, and because of this very knowledge, he was pulled out of the dark dungeons of vrittis, the internal fluctuations and obstacles.
The whole essence of the Bhagavad Gita lies in the various types and theories of Dharma it expounds. Additionally, Krishna talks of universal harmony and strict, unflinching adherence towards duty. What Lord Krishna transmits into Arjuna here, was not just some knowledge but the divine truth of life, the precious knowledge of Yoga, teaching him the importance of Bhakti, Karma, Dhyana, Gyan, Consciousness, Atma and Paramatma.
श्रीमद्भगवद्गीता as the name says is a Symphony of Gods
श्री stands for the - auspicious / luck bearer / to offer respect
मद् represents - pride / glory / happiness / mania / insanity / hallucination / delight / lust / madness/gratification
(The destroyer of all the negativities and painful influences bringing light to the real soul self, exposing one to true happiness)
Both when combined -
श्रीमद् becomes - grandeur / splendour or glory
भगवत represents -God / worshipful / royal
गीता represents – song
Often termed as the “The Celestial Song” and the “Words of the Lord”
The symbolic representation of Gita very often shows a picture of a chariot its rider and the divine figure with an illuminated circle behind his head, and an entire battlefield with great warriors.
In Katha-upanishad, Yama has described this visual to Nachiketa, “Know the Aatman (the Self) as the Lord of the Chariot, the body as the Chariot, the Intellect as the Driver and the Mind as the reins.” He then elaborates that the senses are the horses, the sense objects are the roads, when Aatman is united with the body - senses - and mind, then the wise becomes the enjoyer. The self being beyond human conceptions, can only be conveyed through similes which is the reason why all the great teachers taught in parables.
Therefore, know the Ruler of the Death representing the Self as the Lord of the chariot, the intellect being the discriminative faculty is the driver who controls the wild horses of the senses by firmly holding the reins of the mind, the roads include all the external objects which either attract or repel the senses, like the sense of smelling follows the sweet odour, the sight follows beauty, thus unless restrained by discriminative faculty each of the senses seek to follow their special attraction, when the self is joined with the body, mind and senses, the individual first uses the will – feels – perceives – and then proceeds.
One major reality that all our ancient auspicious scriptures preach including this precious journal is that “soul is the absolute reality and body is a perishable relative reality” - the subject of birth and death are only the concepts of material. The Hindus treat Gita like a religious book, but it is not just a book of religion, instead it is a book of region and reasons, the geometry and alignment of life the finite and the infinite, the psychology of existence, the science and reasoning behind the evolution, no matter it fits so well with every gender every age group and all eras. While the central theme of Gita remains spiritualism, it is a practical guide to living a powerful life as well as God realization in you or symbolically- realization of the Good in you, the spiritualism here is much wider and bigger than what any religious journal will ever offer. The components of religion involve mythology, a prophet, rituals, prayers, places, and elements that teach worshiping and rules or the dos and the don’ts. This is limited knowledge bound by that sector. The spiritual wisdom that Gita offers has no boundaries or limits, it doesn’t need a prophet a temple or any idol to pursue, rather it urges you to experience what it teaches if you are an intellectual, perform action as it teaches if you are a doer (which practically everyone is), or you can surrender completely. It is a book of revelations that does not discourage following other religions or gods, it tells you how to stay in the world and rise above all that is worldly, it teaches equanimity through social, legal, cultural, and creative endeavors, to promote peace and enlightenment, teaching us the universality of change, and subservience of dharma to promote universal peace, love, and bliss.
Just like right isn’t always right with the outer appearances like the choices made by Karna in the name of friendship and charity, being free from karma doesn’t involve non-doing of karma like Arjuna’s dilemma leading him to renunciate his actions and duties as a warrior. Being by the side of Dharma isn’t Dharma like Pitamah Bheeshma who followed dharma so blindly that he was deflected by it’s pure cause and ended in the shrines of adharma, similarly there are always two battles going on simultaneously in our lives as an individual, one that is external and altered by the behavior another one that is internal; amongst our very own demonic and saintly virtues. The choices we make decide our fate on the outside and the impressions of the past karmas affect them from the inside.
Similar is the scenario in Kurukshetra: there are two battles going on, one that is symbolic and one that is shown and seen, one that Arjuna is fighting for Dharma and another that Arjuna is fighting with himself as an individual. This book is a divine’s call to the warrior in Arjuna and symbolically in all of us, to defeat the inner enemies, the lurking beast invading the inner mind as greed, lust, attachment, ego, and fear. These prowlers inhabit the mind of man for several births and chase him even beyond death. A person who can emerge victoriously over these inner foes and is advanced in spiritual orientation can boast of the eligibility to wage a war for the cause of Dharma, here Dharma is nothing but the Divine or the God himself whose objective is a selfless service to uphold the truth for the good of all, animate and inanimate, as the universe is based on the spiritual as well as the moral truth concerning all sentient and the insentient, where spiritual realization is needed to see and seek the truth before fighting the war of the righteousness.
This entire journal operates on the concept of “Surrender To Discover” the yogic act of Ishvar Pranidhana “ईश्वरप्रणिधान” complete surrender to God is the supreme devotion and highest sacrifice. It is extraordinary devotion to God and is the only way to remove all kinds of scarcity. Whether it is confusions in life or filthiness of heart, worries, stress, fear, guilt feeling or remorse – everything can be overcome by this one feeling. But to reach this position the greatest courage is required which is complete dependence on God. And this greatest courage can then protect the meditator, which Lord Krishna has narrated multiple times _
दूरेण ह्यवरं कर्म बुद्धियोगाद्धनञ्जय | बुद्धौ शरणमन्विच्छ कृपणा: फलहेतव: || 2.49||
dūreṇa hy-avaraṁ karma buddhi-yogād dhanañjaya, buddhau śharaṇam anvichchha kṛipaṇāḥ phala-hetavaḥ.
"Seek refuge in divine knowledge and insight, O Arjun, and discard reward-seeking actions that are certainly inferior to works performed with the intellect established in Divine knowledge. Miserly are those who seek to enjoy the fruits of their works."
दैवी ह्येषा गुणमयी मम माया दुरत्यया | मामेव ये प्रपद्यन्ते मायामेतां तरन्ति ते || 7.14||
daivī hyeṣhā guṇa-mayī mama māyā duratyayā, mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te.
"My divine energy Maya, consisting of the three modes of nature, is very difficult to overcome. But those who surrender unto me cross over it easily."
तमेव शरणं गच्छ सर्वभावेन भारत | तत्प्रसादात्परां शान्तिं स्थानं प्राप्स्यसि शाश्वतम् || 18.62||
tam eva śharaṇaṁ gachchha sarva-bhāvena bhārata, tat-prasādāt parāṁ śhāntiṁ sthānaṁ prāpsyasi śhāśhvatam.
"Surrender exclusively unto him with your whole being, O Bharat. By his grace, you will attain perfect peace and the eternal abode."
Lord Krishna emphasizes that by his grace, one will attain eternal beatitude and the imperishable abode. However, to receive this grace, the soul must qualify itself by surrendering to God. Even a worldly father will not hand over all his precious possessions to his child until the child becomes responsible enough to utilize them properly. Similarly, the grace of God is not a whimsical act; he has perfectly rational rules based on which he bestows it.
Apart from the picture of war, the struggle and confusion, we shouldn’t forget that the prime passion of Arjuna’s life was attainment of Moksha or Nirvana. While scanning the Kaurava’s army, what he saw was a bunch that was his own, suddenly bringing to him a flash of knowledge from scriptures that “one who kills his blood relations cannot escape hell.”, for Arjuna this led to an explosion of thoughts in his mind, convincing him that this war was a gateway to hell. It was therefore important to touch upon the basic nature of life, that Gita raises and resolves like –
- What really is a man?
- What is soul?
- What is Karma?
- What is Nishkama Karma?
- How does one perform action and remains dissolved in God?
- What is Dharma and Dharma Yuddha?
- Does life end with death, if not what follows?
- Are the events like war pre-destined or can be altered by human efforts?
To conclude with, Bhagavad Gita is a journal of life, its essence lies in the equanimity of mind which is attained by transcending it through Yoga, as the consciousness of the mind is myopic and only spiritual consciousness abounds in universal love and absolute knowledge.
As the last verse of Bhagavad Gita States-
यत्र योगेश्वर: कृष्णो यत्र पार्थो धनुर्धर: | तत्र श्रीर्विजयो भूतिध्रुवा नीतिर्मतिर्मम || 18.78||
yatra yogeśhvaraḥ kṛiṣhṇo yatra pārtho dhanur-dharaḥ, tatra śhrīr vijayo bhūtir dhruvā nītir matir mama.
(Wherever there is Shree Krishna, the Lord of all Yoga, and wherever there is Arjun, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be unending opulence, victory, prosperity, and righteousness. Of this, I am certain.)