GHHF- Gita Jayanthi Bhagavad Gita’s essence, relevance, and influence

14 Dec 2021 346 Views

“Read the Gita and other good works on Vedanta. That is all you need. The present system of education is all wrong. The mind is crammed with facts before it knows how to think. Control of the mind should be taught first.” Swami Vivekananda

As we celebrate Gita Jayanti on December 14, 2021, we should remember the circumstances under which Bhagavad Gita was born. After negotiations between Pandavas and Kauravas failed, the war was declared. Arjuna looked at the formation of the armies on both sides and he become despondent with the realization that he may have to kill his own family members, teachers like Bhishma Charya, Drona, and Kripa Charya, friends and others in this great war. With these thoughts in mind, loosing his composure he turned to Lord Krishna and said:

My whole body shudders: my hair is standing on end. My bow, the Gaṇḍiva, is slipping from my hand, and my skin is burning all over. My mind is in quandary and whirling in confusion; I am unable to hold myself steady any longer. O Krishna, killer of the Keshi demon, I only see omens of misfortune. I do not foresee how any good can come from killing my own kinsmen in this battle. (Gita 1:29-31).

Arjuna was not in a position to make a decision to either fight or not fight. Despondent, disillusioned, helpless, fearful, and dejected, Arjuna surrender to Lord Krishna and said:

“I am confused about my duty and am besieged with anxiety and faintheartedness. I am your disciple and am surrendered to you. Please instruct me for certain what is best for me.”

Lord Krishna emphasized the importance of uploading Dharma and also paying one’s own karma. He said that this is righteous war and adharma should be eliminated. Everything is an illusion, and everything belongs to Divine. Human body impermanent while dharma is eternal. Lord Krishna says: “So, O Arjun, contemplate the Self, surrender all your action to me, abandon all desire, pity, and grief, and be ready to fight.”

That is how the Bhagavad Gita – the eternal, timeless and quintessential message - flows from the lips of Lord Krishna. It spread all across the globe

Ever since it was first translated into English by Charles Wilkins in 1784, the influence of Bhagavad Gita is phenomenal, remarkable, and unimaginable. It’s influenced crossed the boundaries of India, by attracting, philosophers, poets, transcendentalists, scientist, academicians, travelers, and statesmen.  Warren Hastings, Aldous Huxley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Edwin Arnold, Arnold Toynbee, Robert Oppenheimer, W.D.P. Hill, R.C. Zaehner, Albiruni and many others were her admirers and believers. This is but natural because of it’s universal, nonsectarian, and spiritual appeal.  Its universal message transported them to a higher level of thinking, chartered them to think from a different perspective, and transcended the confines of normal human perceptions.

Henry David Thoreau

“In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial.”

"I would say to the readers of the Scriptures, if they wish for a good book, read the Bhagvat-Geeta .... translated by Charles Wilkins. It deserves to be read with reverence even by Yankees...."Besides the Bhagvat-Geeta, our Shakespeare seems sometimes youthfully green... Ex oriente lux may still be the motto of scholars, for the Western world has not yet derived from the East all the light it is destined to derive thence."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavad-gita. It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.

"The Bhagavad-Gita is an empire of thought and in its philosophical teachings Krishna has all the attributes of the full-fledged monotheistic deity and at the same time the attributes of the Upanishadic absolute."

Ananda K Coomaraswamy

               The relevance and importance of Bhagavad Gita is emphasized by  Ananda K Coomaraswamy, "....We must, however, specially mention the Bhagavad Gita as probably the most important single work ever produced in India; this book of eighteen chapters is not, as it has been sometimes called, a "sectarian " work, but one universally studied and often repeated daily from memory by millions of Indians of all persuasions; it may be described as a compendium of the whole Vedic doctrine to be found in the earlier Vedas, Brahmanas, and Upanishads, and being therefore the basis of all the later developments, it can be regarded at the focus of all Indian religion.”

               In a similar vein, it captured the attention of many academicians. For Klaus Kostermaier, Bhagavad Gita is a unique literary manual. He acknowledges that it is not that easy to decipher it’s meaning and message.  He mentions the challenges of understanding Bhagavad Gita:

Whoever reads it for the first time will be struck by its beauty and depth; countless Hindus know it by heart and quote it in many occasions as an expression of their faith and their insights. All over India, and also in many places in the Western hemisphere, Gītā lectures attract large numbers of people. Many are convinced that the Bhagavad Gītā is the key book for the respiritualization of humankind in our age. A careful study of the Gītā, however, will very soon reveal the need for a key to this key book. Simple as the tale may seem and popular as the work has become, it is by no means an easy book and some of the greatest Indianists have grappled with the historical and philosophical problems it presents.”

What do Nobel Laureates say about Bhagavad Gita?

               “Bhagavad Gita is one of the most beautiful and profound texts of world literature.”  Octavio Paz, Nobel laureate

Eugene Wigner, winner of the Prize for Physics in 1963, said. “In particular, it acquainted me some with the Bhagavad Gita. I learned that the basic philosophical ideas of this on ‘existence’ are virtually identical with those which quantum mechanics lead me to.”        

"The curiosity of the Bhagavad-Gita is its absolutely admirable adumbration of life's acumen which enables aesthetics to bloom into religion." Herman Hesse (1877-1962), recipient of the Nobel Prize in 1946.

Albert Einstein expressed his admiration by saying, “When I read the Bhagavad-Gita and reflect about how God created this universe everything else seems so superfluous.”

"The Bhagavad-Gita is 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." Sri Aurobindo

"From a clear knowledge of the Bhagavad-Gita all the goals of human existence become fulfilled. Bhagavad-Gita is the manifest quintessence of all the teachings of the Vedic scriptures." Adi Shankara

Greatness of Bhagavad Gita

The Gita concludes with Sanjay’s assessment of the message of Lord Krishna to Dhritarashtra. Sanjay says that his hair stood up as he listened to the dialogue between Vasudeva and Arjuna through the grace of Sage Vyasa who blessed him the vision of Cosmic form of Lord Krishna. He concludes with the statement: “Wherever is Krishna the Lord of Yoga, wherever is Partha, the wielder of the bow, there prevails prosperity, victory, glory and righteousness; that is my conviction.” (18:78). This verse is called ekashloki Gita and is Sanjaya’s answer to Dhritarashtra’s question about the war. Sanjaya says indirectly that there is no doubt that the Pandavas will win the war.

The Mahabharata says "sarva shaastramayii giitaa" meaning that the Gita is the essence all the scriptures. Sage Vyasa said that the Gita alone should be sung, heard and assimilated and there is no use of any other scripture when one has the Gita because it has originated from the lips of the Lord Himself. Gita Mahatyam or the Glory of Gita says that Gita contains the essence of all the four Vedas and yet its style is so simple that after a little study, anyone can easily follow the structure of the words. As a reader grows in maturity, the same words reveal more and more facets of meaning and thought process and hence the Gita remains eternally new. The Lord Himself says in the Varaha Purana that, “Where the Gita is read, forthwith comes help. Where the Gita is discussed, recited, taught, or heard, there, O Earth, beyond a doubt, do I Myself unfailingly reside.”

The Bhagavad Gita has lessons for the young and old of any caste, creed and religion and teaches the technique of perfect living. It is for all ages; and it is universal. Where the Bhagavad Gita book is kept and the study is conducted, there all the sacred places, the sacred rivers and all holiness are present. It is also said, where the Gita is read, there help comes quickly. It has become source of inspiration to Mahatma Gandhi to lead the Independence movement and became a good friend during his imprisonment. “When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-Gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day".

Bhagavad Gita teaches us to detach ourselves to the fruits which enable one free from being stress, frustration, tensions, worries and confusion in life. It emphasizes to performance of one’s duty.

“Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,

Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani” (2:47)

“You have the right to work only but never to its fruits. Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction.” Gita reaches us to be detached from the fruits. Because life is not a smooth ride. It faces many hurdles, roadblocks, turmoils, and troubles. It is a mixture of thorns and roses, ups and downs. No body is spared from these varied lives. Hence Lord Krishna says again:

mātrā-sparśhās tu kaunteya śhītoṣhṇa-sukha-duḥkha-dāḥ

āgamāpāyino ’nityās tans-titikṣhasva bhārata (Gita 2:14)

“O son of Kunti, the contact between the senses and the sense objects gives rise to fleeting perceptions of happiness and distress. These are non-permanent and come and go like the winter and summer seasons. O descendent of Bharat, one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.”

Dr. Daniel Coleman, associate editor of Psychology Today and author of The Varieties of Meditative Experiences, after studying the meditational techniques of members of the Krsna consciousness movement, said, "I found the Hare Krsna devotees to be well-integrated, friendly, and productive human beings. In a culture like ours, in which inner, spiritual development is almost totally neglected in favor of materialistic pursuits, we might have something to learn from their meditational practices."

Bhagavad Gita’s Influence

The Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Upanishad and Puranasa have influenced the greatest minds all across the globe for many centuries that include mathematicians, astronomers, physicist, Chemists, political leaders, scientists, artists, philosophers of diverse backgrounds.  Many Nobel laureates admired our scriptures as they provided spark and life into their research.

Bhagavad Gita would equip the children, youth, and children to cope with the challenges they face in life, trials and tribulations they encounter on a daily basis, problems they meet in the modern world, frustrations they may be bumped into the competitive world of work, adjustment they have to make in the family life, ancient wisdom they may use to differentiate between the dharmic and adharmic values, and stress they may face in their hectic, hurried and materialistic world.  Bhagavad Gita would teach the high morals that promote peace and harmony. The Bhagavad Gita encourages us to live life with purity, fearlessness, strength, discipline, balanced mind, honesty, kindness, and integrity in order to fulfill our responsibility in the modern world. The message of Gita is as relevant in the modern world as it was during Treta Yuga when Lord Krishna recited this message to highly devoted, capable and heroic Arjuna.

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