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The Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Indian text, is a significant work of Hindu tradition. It contains both philosophy and literature. Between 400 BCE and 200 CE, the Bhagavad Gita was composed. The authorship of the Bhagavadgita is not clear, just like the Upanishads and the Vedas.
Bhagavad Gita as It Is is a holy text written by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swaami Prabhupada.
The Bhagavad Gita, an eternal message of spiritual wisdom, is from ancient India. Gita is both the song and the word. Bhagavad is a Hebrew word that means God. The Bhagavad Gita often refers to the Song of God. The Bhagavadgita is a synthesis between Hindu ideas about dharma and theistic bhakti. It also reflects the yogic ideals moksha. The text includes jnana and bhakti as well as karma and Raja Yoga, which are mentioned in the sixth chapter. It also incorporates ideas from Samkhya Yoga philosophy.
The Gita is told through the dialogue between Pandava prince Arjuna, his guide and charioteer Krishna. Arjuna, who is amidst moral dilemmas and despair over the death and violence that the war against his own family will bring about at the Dharma Yudhha (righteous conflict) between Pandavas & Kauravas, is overcome by the Dharma Yudhha. The Krishna-Arjuna dialogs touch on a wide range of spiritual topics and discuss philosophical issues as well as ethical dilemmas.
The Bhagavad Gita as It Is combines Hindu ideas about dharma and theistic bhakti with the yogic ideals moksha. The text includes jnana and bhakti as well as karma and Raja Yoga, which are mentioned in the sixth chapter. It also incorporates ideas from Samkhya Yoga philosophy. The Bhagavad Gita, the most well-known and famous Hindu text, has a unique pan-Hindu influence.
The Bhagavad Gita (or “Song of God”) is one of the most important religious texts of Hinduism, and it is easily the best-known. It has been quoted over the centuries by poets, scientists and philosophers.
It is often called the Gita. This work was once part of the epic Mahabharata. Its composition date is therefore closely linked to that of the epic, c. 5th-3rd centuries BCE. However, not all scholars agree that it was originally included in Mahabharata text, so the date is later than c. 2nd Century BCE.
The Gita is an exchange between warrior-prince Arjuna with the god Krishna, who is serving his charioteer in the Battle of Kurukshetra. This battle was fought between Duryodhana’s family (the Pandavas), and Duryodhana (the Kauravas and their allies). The dialogue is read by Sanjaya, Kauravan counselor to Dhritarashtra, his blind king. Krishna has granted Sanjaya mystical vision so that he can see the battle and report it to the king.
The Kauravas as well as the Pandavas are related. There are also mutual friends and family members who fight on both sides for supremacy. Arjuna, seeing all his old friends and comrades from the other side, loses heart and refuses participation in a battle that will lead to their deaths and many more. The dialogue between the god and the prince on right action, understanding, and ultimately the meaning of life, is what makes up the rest of the text.
THE GITA COMBINES THE CONCEPTS EXPRESSED IN THE CENTRAL TEXTS OF HINDUISM, WHICH ARE HERE SYNTHESIZED INTO A SINGLE, COHERENT VISION.
The Gita brings together the ideas from the two central texts of Hinduism, the Vedas (and the Upanishads) – and combines them into one coherent vision of belief and understanding of one God and the underlying unity that is all existence. The text explains how to elevate your mind and soul so that you can see beyond illusions, which lead one to believe in duality and multiplicity. Once the trappings of illusion are removed, all aspects of life and humans are an extension of the Divine.
The Bhakti (“devotion”) Movement was inspired by the Gita. This movement influenced Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Krishna describes the path to selfless devotion as one way to self-actualization, the recognition of the truth about existence and freedom from the cycle of rebirths and deaths. The other two paths are jnana (“knowledge”) or karma (“action”) Today’s Hare Krishna Movement is an expression Bhakti. The Gita remains their main text.
Hinduism is also known to its adherents under the name Sanatan Dharma (or “Eternal Order”). It is informed at its fundamental level through the texts known as Vedas, which also contain subtexts known the Upanishads. Veda is “knowledge” and Upanishad can be interpreted as “sit down close”, meaning to seek instruction from a master. The Vedas provide the fundamental knowledge of the universe, while the Upanishads teach how to apply that knowledge.
In its most basic and concise form, the Vedas/Upanishads vision is that there is only one entity, Brahman, who is the creator and sustainer of existence. The Atman is a great Divinity that exists within all of us. The purpose of life, after physical death, is to achieve the Atman self-actualization. This will allow one to union with Brahman in all aspects of life. This self-actualization is achieved by performing one’s duty (duty) according to one’s right action (karma) to eventually attain moksha or liberation and recognition of the Final Truth. If self-actualization is not achieved in a given life, the person must reincarnate and try again. The three worldly distractions that stand in the way of self-actualization are the three gunas. Each person is born with certain qualities, characteristics, and states of mind. The gunas These are:
- Sattva – wisdom, goodness, enlightenment
- Rajas – passion, activity, aggression
- Tamas – darkness, confusion, helplessness
The gunas do not require one to go through a hierarchy from top to bottom, but each of them exists, to greater or lesser extents, in every person. The passion of Rajas, and the desire to be good or wise can cause confusion in Tamas. Gunas can enslave the mind, interpreting the world as truth – as life and the universe really are – and trap one in the cycle rebirth/death (samsara). This prevents one from realizing their potential by diverting attention away from reality to what they have been taught to be reality.
This is best illustrated by the perception of death as a terrible loss for both the deceased and the survivors. The natural reaction to death is sadness and anger, or for those suffering from a terminal illness, fear of the unknown, and anger. These responses would be explained by the gunas, according to the Upanishads Sages and Krishna in the Gita. The way one responds to loss is determined by the three gunas that are most dominant in that individual. However, each person will have different expressions of this emotion depending on the gunas . Sattva-inclined souls will tend to be more philosophical and optimistic. Rajas are angry and aggressive. Tamas are inconsolable, despairing, and inconsolable.
Krishna would argue that none of these responses are appropriate since the person who has died is still alive. One commits a grave spiritual error by responding as if they have. Even Sattva‘s response isn’t entirely appropriate. It implies an end to life, discontinuity, and it is wrong. The soul is immortal, existed prior to birth and continues to exist after death. This understanding is highlighted in the Upanishads, and it is illustrated in the Gita which emphasizes the importance of moving beyond the appearances of truth to actual Truth.
The action of the Gita takes place in Mahabharata, an Indian epic that focuses on the interrelated Kauravas families and their struggle to control the land of Bharat. Traditionally, the work is attributed to Vyasa (as the Gita by others, which is said to have been dictated to Vyasa by the elephant-headed god Ganesha). It illustrates spiritual truths through its epic tale.
The Vedas and, according to some schools, the Upanishads are shruti (what is heard) by Hindus. They believe that the Vedas are eternal knowledge, which was communicated by God, and then heard by sages, who preserved them. Smritis is the term for “what is remembered” because the Mahabharata, Gita and other great epics are considered smritis. They are works that were written by humans using past history, lore and tradition. It is important to note that the Gita can be considered shruti in certain Hindu sects, such as the Hare Krishna movement, but this is not widely accepted.
The Mahabharata opens with the story about Shantanu, a king of the Kuru clan, who starts a series that sees Satyavati and their son Devavrat (also called Bheeshm) taking control of the kingdom. Bheeshm seizes three princesses of another kingdom to marry his half-brother Vichitravirya. One of them was released, and the two other were married to Vichitravirya, who died without a child. In order to preserve the Kuru line, Satyavati’s first marriage to Vyasa resulted in two princesses being married to Vyasa’s son. Dhritarashtra, who was born blind, was the first child of one of the princesses. Pandu was the second. Vyasa had a third child with Vidur, a maid of women. The three boys displayed exceptional skills in all areas of government.
Dhritarashtra married the princess Gandhari, and Pandu was married to Kunti. Vidur and the two princes consolidated the kingdom’s rule and Pandu was made king when Dhritarashtra turned 70. A blind man cannot legally rule. Pandu ruled well, and when everything seemed to be in order, Pandu asked for leave and moved off to the woods with Kunti, his wife Madri, and their lesser children. Kunti returned years later with five of her sons, Yudhishthira (Bhima), Arjuna and Nakula, who were all born in the wilderness. The family also included the bodies of Pandu, Madri, and their children. Although these sons, known as the Pandavas, are often attributed to Pandu, they were actually conceived by Kunti and Madri, with different gods.
Dhritarashtra, Gandhari, and Pandu were both gone. Dhritarashtra had also given birth to 100 children. Duryodhana was the oldest, and is known as the Kauravas. The rest of the story is a tale of rivalry between Duryodhana’s family and five Kunti sons. This eventually leads to the families facing off at the Battle for Kurukshetra.
Here is where the Gita action takes place just before the battle begins. Krishna, his current incarnation, has ties to both sides. He declares that he will not fight for either side but help both. He serves as Arjuna’s charioteer and, as both armies move into position for battle, Arjuna asks Krishna to drive him to the center of the field so he can look upon all of those who are so eager for war. Arjuna is able to see his family, friends, teachers, counselors and all those who have influenced his life. He informs Krishna that he will not be part of any actions that lead to so much misery and death. He lays down his great bow, declaring that he will not fight.
ARJUNA’S UNDERSTANDING ABOUT THE NATURE OF EXISTENCE, HIS PLACE in THE COSMIC ORDER, & WHY HE HAS to PARTICIPATE IN THE COMING ATTACKLE FINISHES THE GITA
Krishna gave Sanjaya a special kind of second vision to enable him to see the battlefield from far away and report it to Dhritarashtra. The Gita starts with Dhritarashtra asking Sanjaya about what’s happening at Kurukshetra. Sanjaya then recounts Arjuna’s despair, Krishna’s response and the entire dialogue that culminates in Arjuna understanding the nature of existence, where he fits in the cosmic order and why he must take part in this battle.
As Arjuna grabs his bow, the Mahabharata continues. They win, but it comes at the expense of their entire army. Duryodhana, the Kauravas and all their soldiers are killed. Yudhishthira, his brothers, then take control of the land for 36 more years. They finally abdicate to seek peace in their last days in the Himalayas.
The actions of the Gita, Arjuna’s despair, and the final realization of Truth touch on many aspects of Hindu belief. But central to Hinduism is the concept dharma and an order universe in which each individual has a responsibility for doing what they were placed on this earth to do. Krishna explains to Arjuna that he is a soldier and that it is his duty to engage in combat. But this argument fails to convince Arjuna as all he can see is his family and friends who will soon die.
Krishna must then go beyond the traditional argument of dharma in order to explain its essence, importance and how the gunas, which can lead to false understanding or acceptance of illusion, distract from it. Arjuna is told by Krishna in one of the most iconic passages from the Gita:
It doesn’t matter if the slayer believes he slays
Or, the slain believes he is slain.
Both are incorrect.
There are neither slayers nor slain.
Krishna says that the soul is eternal, so death is an illusion. Although death is the act of destroying a body that is no longer functional, it does not have anything to do with the Atman which is immortal and will return to its eternal home in union with Brahman once it has shed the body. To see the truth, all things visible and invisible must be recognized as Brahman. All of the soldiers on the battlefield are Brahman. All of the citizens of the country are Brahman. Once one has understood the essence of all things, it is possible to take right action in your life.
[The believer’s] illumined soul
Brahman beats Brahman
His every move
Worship of Brahman is possible
Are such acts possible to bring about evil?
Brahman is the ritual.
Brahman is the offering
Brahman is the one who offers
To the fire that’s Brahman.
Brahman is what a man sees when he looks at him
Every action is important
He will find Brahman. (IV.2)
This recognition allows one to be detached from the consequences of their actions. Krishna says that if one’s attention is on the likely outcome, one will be blinded by illusions which can cause one to fail to fulfill their essential duty. To play the role one was given in the Eternal Order, one must let go of the consequences of their actions and instead focus on the task at hand, even if it seems painful.
Arjuna’s example, refusing fight means refusing to fulfill his Dharma. This is not only refusing to take responsibility but also denying the reality of existence. Because all attempts to settle the conflict peacefully and overtures have failed, the battle must be fought. All the parties involved made decisions that have led them to Kurukshetra, battle, and Arjuna cannot do anything else but fight, even though he doesn’t want to. Arjuna is now at peace with his choices and the battle begins.
This dramatic situation is applicable to anyone who finds themselves in the exact same situation. The Gita offers comfort to the audience by stating that if Arjuna could recognize his Dharma and kill his relatives and friends, then any difficulties one might be facing in their own lives should be easier to bear.
The Gita is not only about the importance of dharma. There are many other aspects. The 18 chapters of Krishna’s speeches illustrate the nature and power of Divine Love, how one should respond and the order in which the universe works. At one point, Krishna – who is an avatar of the god Vishnu – reveals himself as Brahman itself thereby showing how all the many gods of Hinduism are also Brahman in varied forms. Krishna also talks about the Caste System (the Varnas), which allows each person to do his dharma in peace. These are the varnas:
- Brahmana varna – highest caste, teachers, priests, intellectuals
- Kshatriya varna – warriors, police, protectors, guardians
- Vaishya varna – merchants, farmers, bankers, clerks
- Shudra varna: Lower caste, servants and laborers, unskilled.
Below the Shudras, the untouchables, also known as the Dalits or those who live outside the caste system are the Dalits.
The Gita explains that the varnas can be used by anyone. Anybody whose Dharma it to be a teacher should be one, regardless of their social class. The Laws of Manu (the Manusmriti), which were written between the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, transformed this vision into a legalistic system. However, one’s caste determines one’s occupation as well as social parameters. This was not the original vision of Gita.
The Gita‘s emphasis on devotion, knowledge and right action in understanding God would seem not to allow for a legal caste system that confines one to his or her birth social class. However, the Laws of Manu ignore this criticism and claim that the caste system was divinely created and is part of Universal Order. Because of the karma from a past life, one has been born to a particular caste. This must be addressed in this life as it was neglected.
The Gita would be the inspiration for the religious movements that would become known as Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism. All of these religions – to greater degrees or lesser degrees – emphasize devotion to a personal God or Higher Power or Greater Good as the central part of their vision. Through its compassion and message of Universal Love, emphasising personal responsibility and the unity of all living creatures, the Gita inspired many other movements, including the Hare Krishna movement.
The differences that people notice in one another – and the apparent tragedy of loss or death – can be recognized as illusions. According to the Gita, this is possible once you have moved beyond accepting appearances to an understanding of reality-as it-is. All are part of the essence and truth of the Universe. We can only work towards this realization if we first recognize it as such. The Gita, one of the most important Hindu texts, is the best expression of this idea of self-actualization. It frees the soul from suffering-inducing illusions and rewards it with peace and union with God in the afterlife.
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