Gita, The Gospel of Krishna

Any discussion of Bhagavadgita revolves around three important factors. First, the person who re­vealed the Gita that is Krishna. Second, the person who received the gospel and transformed his life from a state of ignorance to one of enlightenment and that is Arjuna who is the disciple of Krishna. Third, the book it self in which the discussion of the master and the dis­ciple are recorded in the form of poetry and preserved for the pos­terity, considered as the divine song sung by the God himself “Vyasa” who is the compiler of all the Hindu scriptures except for the one Holy book “Ramayan”, gives the intro­duction which is traditionally sung before the recitation ofGita known as the nine Jnanaslokas, declares at the outset” OM Parthaya Pratiboditham, Bagavate Narayanena Svayam…..” emphasiz­ing the above notion.

Let us now explore each one of the above said factors a little more in depth. Although we cel­ebrate the Krishnashtarni (birthday of Krishna), a great many of the people in India think that there never existed a person of that kind. Some believe that this concept Krishna originated by the” Sun Worship”. Some say that none of the characters of Mahabaratha be­long to this cycle of creation at all but to the unknown past “Dvapara Yuga”. Hence it is no more than a myth. The exact year of Krishna’s birth is not recorded. There are strong reasons to think that Krishna preceded Buddha by more than one thousand years. There seems to be several Krishnas like the one who is mentioned in the Upanishads, one a great king and the other a great commander general. But the Krishna we are dealing with is the one in whom all these characters are found together. Right from the days of my memory I have heard stories of Krishna. hence I can clearly pic­ture his life right from his birth, grow­ing into infancy, childhood, teenage, adulthood, middleage, old age and death. So, for most people like me the proof of existence of Krishna is not important anymore as we see him as our own contemporary through various stages of life. In his life stories most of the time he is presented as a versatile human be­ing, some often times he is pictured godly and in few specific occasions addressed as God himself.

His disciple, partha (Arjuna), is no ordinary man. A monument of human discipline, who had mas­tered the art of archery, who had imbibed the “Shad Darshanas” (Six schools of Indian philosophy), who had acquired the secrets of the greatest weapons of the world even beyond the present day nuclear weapons. If we put together the best of men of human history from different fields at different times, we may still fail to create one Arjuna of the epic Mahabharata for he was the master of all the sixty four Vidyas. Yet his yearning for knowl­edge has not quenched. So great was this disciple Aljuna, making his teacher nothing less than God him­ self incarnated.

Gita consists of eighteen chapters. Each chapter is titled as yoga which means chapter of

Knowledge. Curiously enough the first chapter is named as “Vishada Yoga”, knowledge of despondency. According to Krishna this is the first step in the path of enlightenment. Till then all human knowledge is nothing but a state of ignorance. No other human being can more exem­plify this fact than this human ge­nius Arjuna himself Arjuna had till then sought the knowledge of

matter which had led him only into an ultimate state of despondency and an utter confusion at the time of greatest need. According to Krishna although it is all a state of ignorance nevertheless impor­tant to ferment a culture in the human mind in which he can sow the seed of knowledge of the spirit. That is how the second chapter of Gita begins peculiarly titled as ‘Samkhya Yoga’ for Samkhya means Knowledge and yoga also means Knowledge. Arjuna having asked Krishna to place his chariot in between the two huge armies takes a quick look at the major warriors eager to fight each other and to his dis­may identifies them to be his own grandfathers, some are his mater­nal and paternal uncles, some are sons and grandsons, some are teachers, students and friends. Seeing these dear ones he is over­come with the human emotion of despondency and decides that it is futile to kill these people in the name of war for the sake of mor­tal land. So he lays down his Gandeeva (bow), and argues like a scholar with Krishna on the wis­dom of his decision. Hence Krishna brings home the fact that it is ignorance than wisdom, cow­ardice rather than strength that deluding the reasoning of Arjuna and introduces him into the world of real knowledge, and thus starts his classical teaching on Karma and Dharma.

For Krishna “The great­est yogi is the one who experi­ences greatest rest in the midst of

intense activity and experiences intense activity in the midst of greatest rest”. Befittingly, the opening scene for the Gita is an intense war about to break in the battlefield of Kurukshetra. In the midst of all that intense tension, confusion and fear, Krishna at­tains the greatest serenity and preaches the gospel to Arjuna summing up this Philosophical thought in the sloka “karmany akarma yah pashyet…” (Chapter IV, sloka 18.). The most fasci­nating aspect of Krishna’s teach­ing is his repetitive mentioning of detachment to the fruit of karma (result of an action) for human being has the right to act but never for the fruit of the action, “Karmanyeva adhikaraste ma paleshu Kadachen…”. (Chapter two, sloka 47). According to Krishna action is the root cause of creation. Not to speak of the created beings, even Brahma the Creator for that matter is not free of action. Then what is that separates the ignorant from the enlightened? The ignorant is the one who is attached to the action for he is clinging to the fruit of the action thereof. Where the enlightened is the one who is not at­tached to the action for his mind never hovers over the fruit of the action thereof. Krishna sums up this most practical theory where one can intensify ones involve­ment in any given action in the sloka ‘Saktah Karmany avidvamso… (Chapter three, sloka 25).

Having given the secret of ‘Karma’ to Arjuna, he takes him now into the world of “Dharma”. Initially he elaborates on what an evil, bad or wrong action is and what a good, moral and right action is and why one should prefer the good over the bad. Now to the dismay of

Arjuna, Krishna introduces him to an action (Karma) which is supe­rior to everything said so far, and names it ‘Dharma’, beyond evil or good. This is the action where the individual merges his ego (Ahamkara) with the universal consciousness and becomes an instrument in all its actions. Ac­cording to Krishna, Dharma is the highest Karma. For Arjuna and for all of us the most fascinating teaching of Krishna is yet to come in chapter 18, sloka 66. ‘Sarvadarman parityajya Mam ekam sharanam vraja…’ “Re­nounce all Dharmas and take ref­uge in me alone, for I shall liber­ate you from all sins ‘Karmas”‘. According to Krishna all ‘Karmas’ are different degrees of sin with different types of bondage. Bad Karma is bad bondage. Good Karma is good bondage. Dharmic Karma is Dharmic bond­age. Ultimate liberation comes only by the grace of God by total sur­rendering of all Karmas to Him. Thus ends the teaching of Krishna and transformation of Arjuna from a state of despondency to a state of enlightenment in “Mokshya Sanyasa Yoga”. Arjuna wakes up from depression, cowardice gaining clarity of mind in a state of surrender to the lord, picks up his Gandeeva (bow) and begins the Mahabharata Yudda, “Great Indian Battle”.

Each of us by our own right is an Arjuna. Our mind is the battlefield Kurushetra. Our ‘Samsara’ (the life) is the great battle in which the good (Pandavas) and the bad thoughts (Kauravas) are are constantly fighting and both are identified dear to us, by us. Having bee deluded by these att achments, we like Arjuna tend to give up the fight. But Gita reminds us that there is a Krishna, the Lord in each one of us. Total surrender of ones self to this universal self alone brings the highest liberation. Om Tat sat.