The Bhagavad Gita is a world-scripture with a world message, It is not meant for India alone: it is a “Bible of Humanity”.
The Gita has an answer to the problems and perplexities of the modern world. The problems of social, national and international reconstruction will not be solved’ without an appreciation of those deeper values of life which, the Gita shows, are the very structure of Reality. A new Indian nation, a new social order, a new civilisation must be built on the essential teachings of the Gita. The wisdom’ of the Gita is the hope of a new humanity.
Sadhu Vaswani, who was regarded by many as an “embodiment of the Gita”, a “living Gita”, and who was equally at home in the Eastern and Western traditions of thought, gives us in this book the teaching of the Gita in simple words.
In the Bhagavad Gita, simplicity is combined with .wisdom. The essential teaching of the Bhagavad Gita has been overlaid by controversies which scholars and theologians may understand but not lovers of the simple life. In the present volume, the author has simplified the message of the Bhagavad Gita and related it to the experience and aspirations of the common man. “To the vast majority of men”, he says, “life seems to be a meaningless muddle. Not many seem to realise that life, at its noblest, is a yatra, a piligrimage to God: the Infinite is our true Home.”
A new renaissance of culture and man’s spiritual life is humanity’s urgent need. The Gita shows the way to a cultural and spiritual renaissance. The Gita stands for social justice for brotherhood of man, for fellowship of nations, for conquest of economic slavery, for creation of new life. The Gita is, above all a dispensation of Love and Freedom.
The Gita is a section of the Mahabharata- a portion of the Bhishma Parva (chapters 25 to 42). In these eighteen chapters is recorded the “Dialogue” (samvada) between Sri Krishna and Arjuna. The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Gita and the Brahma Sutras reflect the soul of the Aryan people. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the two great Epics which enshrine India’s heroic memories, as the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Gita and the Bhrahma Sutras enshrine India’s philosophy and religion. Yagnavalkya and Yudhisthira, Arjuna and Bhishma Pitamaha bear witness to India’s ancient ideals.
Krishna’s is a consecrated name in the life and literature of Aryavarta. In the wilderness of modem India, Sri Krishna’s name rises as a pillar of light and bears witness to the divine destiny of man. Krishna teaches in the Gita that the way to the fulfilment of man’s destiny is the way of pure, heroic will. Renounce self- love, the little ego! Live for the Atman, the Eternal, in you! This is the message of the Gita. Century after century, has this message been proclaimed by India’s great ones. And the thrilling tale of Krishna, the Awakener of Arjuna, of Krishna, the Teacher of Dharma or Righteousness, of Krishna, the Revealer of Wisdom- will remind generations unborn of the Mystery of Life, the Mystery of the Atman.
The Gita is, to my mind, India’s richest gift to humanity. The intuitions of the Gita have shaped the course of Hindu life more than the political methods of great men who have influenced India through the centuries of her long history.
The centre-point of the Gita is the Atman. Thou art of the Atman, O son of man! Tat twamasi! Thou art a Ray Divine. The greatest of the German poets, Goethe, well exclaimed:
Soul of man!
How thou dost seem
Like the water!
From Heaven it cometh,
To Heaven it ascends.
India’s saint and seer, Ramakrishna, when asked to indicate the essence of the Gita, said the essence was in the one word- renunciation. The world is infected with untruth, injustice, suffering, sin. What can heal the world? Renunciation. The Krishna-rnan strips himself of all he has, in order to serve and heal humanity.
The Gita’s teaching is set in the midst of a great Battle. In this teaching, Krishna unifies the margas, the ways, of different Teachers to the Goal of Life. Men come by diverse ways to the Goal, says the Gita. The Gita may rightly be called a scripture of synthesis.
In the karma-yoga way, the Gita emphasises Will and asks that Will should surrender itself to the Lord. The world is Will, said Schopenhauer. He was influenced by Hindu thought. Work, action, has its value. The highest work is sacrificial work, is yagna-says the Gita. Krishna repeatedly asks Arjuna to work and be desireless. All work must be an offering to the Lord. The yogi of the Gita is detached and serene, yet devoted to the Lord. And he is truly blessed who, in work and aspiration, in knowledge and yagna, enters into union with Krishna, the Saviour. So does the teaching of the Gita flower into love of Krishna.
The Atman comes from a Realm of Light- from a Kingdom where there is no time, no birth, no death. The Atman comes to a world where there is maya, the appearance of separation. Herein lies the magnetism of the Gita, it takes you from the empirical plane of experience to a Realm where, rising above the senses, the mind, and the understanding, you are absorbed in the Supreme. The method of union with the Supreme is called yoga.
Worship God by your work- is Gita’s call to the modern world. And your work, karma, is defined by your ashrama. Four ashramas are referred to in the Gita, for four types of men are necessary for the building up of society. There is the teacher type, and there is the warrior type, there is the wealth-producer type, and there is the labourer type. These four types must co-operate to build society. India has for centuries ignored the kshatriya type, and India is becoming weaker and weaker, everyday. Europe, again, is dominated by war-lords and, in drunken insanity, moves from violence to violence. What a reckless squandering of the youths of Europe! Europe is in ruins and India is in exhaustion.
Is it wrong to say that both Europe and India have trampled upon idealistic forces? In India, not Krishna but “communism” is, today, in the hearts of the “educated”. In Europe, the “State” is deified. Modern “nationalisms” put the state above spiritual ideals. Leningrad boasts of its “anti-religious museum”. The great cities of India talk more of Marx and Lenin than of Krishna. Many a “modern” girl in beloved Bharata repeats the words of the young woman of the West who said: “We don’t believe in God!”
The Gita rightly emphasises the value of work and social service. There are elements in the life of Russia which I regard as true- as, indeed, there are forms of “materialism” which, I believe, are not incompatible with a spiritual outlook on life. The great seers of India recognised the place of artha (matter, wealth) in social and national life. But they urged that economic and social relations must be seen in the light of spiritual ideals.
There are elements in the prison system of the Soviet which the Hindu theory of life would approve of. Prisons without walls, where the prisoners are taught work and are treated as men, are superior to prisons in India which are not yet controlled by a spirit of humanism. But the Gita would ask that the prisoners be taught, also, to be the children of God. The Gita would approve of the school system of the Soviet, where children are looked after and given a free meal, but would urge that they be taught, also, that there is a Kingdom of the Spirit that endures when the kingdoms of the earth crumble to dust. The Gita would approve of the Soviet social order which has, practically, abolished hunger and has no room for parasites- men who live on others without toil or work- but the Gita would urge that men and women be given an atmosphere wherein they may move and grow in the love of God and the love of man and bird and beast.
The Gita repudiates the communist teaching that violence and hatred must be freely used. The Gita s message is that of a spiritual society that would work on a deeper plane than that of political power or economic interest. Make your daily work an offering to the Lord, says the Gita.
The ideal of ancient Aryan policy was not exploitation or domination, but service. The modern West, alas, sets up the state as the absolute. State worship is the essence of western nationalisms, as it is the key to communist internationalism, and state worship means, practically, obedience to behests of the party in power. The ancient Aryan had no dreams of world-domination. For Satyam, Truth, does not dominate, Truth does not coerce. Truth convinces, Truth penetrates from within, Truth seeks not power but service of love.
Domination, exploitation, conquest! So doth the West wander from violence to violence. So has man in the West proved a “wolf to man”. And the vision of Christ is wandering homeless in the West. Her “nationalisms” and “inter-nationalisms” are aggressive, violent. The creed of force is the dominant creed of modem Europe, and Europe is drifting from chaos to chaos.
India never went upon foreign conquests. Sri Rama dethroned Ravana, in Lanka, but restored Lanka to the people, setting on its throne a good, able man of that island. India aimed at a conquest of culture, not of arms. India believed in truth and maitreyi.
One of the most impressive pictures in the Mahabharata is that of Bhishma on his bed of arrows on the eve of his departure. Bhishma, the brahmachari, the man of peerless purity, Bhishma, the man of wisdom and valour, Bhishma, the sage who renounces his claim to his father’s throne- Bhishma is dying. This great hero is not afraid of death. To him comes Yudhisthira, he serves Bhishma. Bhishma is well pleased with Yudhisthira, and Bhishma gives to Yudhisthira a philosophy of life in significant words. “Yudhisthira!” says Bhishma, “strive for victory! And never forget that victory must be won through dharma. Yudhisthira! Never depart from dharmal”
In the Gita you have, in the very opening sloka, the word- “dharmakshetra H. The battlefield of Kurukshetra is referred to as dharmakshetra. Yes- the master-word of the Gita is dharma. And the teaching of Bhishma, the elder statesman of Aryavarta, is victory through dharma. The Gita tells us what should be done to attain to victory through dharma. What is dharma? Righteousness. The Gita gives the great message of righteousness. Plato- himself a rishi, a seer of Greece- points out in his Dialogues that the basis of the state should be “justice”.
So the note sounds clear and strong in the Gita: “Let the Atman awake!” Many of us have fallen asleep. How deep is our slumber of the senses! Awake, Arjuna! Let the Atman within you wake! The Gita enunciates the supreme worth of the Atman.
The machine will not save society, the Atman will. The Gita enunciates the principle of self-reverence. Concentrate on the Atman, on self-realisation. Build up from within. Prof. Jung rightly said: “The only way of doing good to the world is to do good to oneself!” Concentrate on the Atman- on self- realisation- until, like a grain of mustard seed, you become a tree of shelter for those who are around you. The Atman, the Spirit, not a state-machine, will give the world the New Order it seeks.
If India lies broken still, is it not because we do not live the Gita in daily life? I plead for applied religion, applied education, applied spirituality. We talk of many things. We talk of Purusha and Prakriti, of Brahman and the devas, of jiva and the Atman. We talk of the three gunas, of yagna and tapas and dana. We talk, we discuss, what do we do in daily life? How many are trying to practise the Gita in daily life? Religion, alas, has been confounded with ritualism. And we are building marble temples for marble thakurs, forgetting the living, moving thakurs- the poor ones and the helpless creatures whom we slay. A thousand schools and colleges, a thousand debates in the Assemblies and at Conferences are, I submit, no better than a tower of babel, a house of confusion and chaos, if we do not live the Gita. And to live is to love.
The Gita does not accept the dominant theories of collective life which the West has emphasised- theories of “imperialism”, “nationalism”, “Bolshevism”. The Gita teaches that true democracy is of the Spirit. The Gita is inspired by a vision of the One Life in all. “I am seated in the hearts of all,” says Sri Krishna. And! again: “There dwelleth in the heart of everyone, o Arjuna, the One who causeth all things and all creatures to revolve, mounted upon the wheel of time. In the Atman- the Spirit- take shelter thou, 0 son of Bharata! By His Grace thou wilt obtain Brahma Nirvana, the Peace Eternal.”
Arjuna! Awake to the One Life that floweth into all! If I have in my heart even a little of this perception, how can I hate a brother or a sister, a nation or a race? The One Life flows into you and me- flows from every star and stardust. No moon is cold, no sun is dead. From all things streams out the joy of life, and Krishna’s smile is at the heart of the strife of things! Within you is the One Spirit, outside of you is still the One. The Kingdom Divine is within you- is, also, outside you, each heart is holy. The mystics call it the “Heavenly Heart”. The disciples of Confucius called it the “centre of emptiness”, the “Light that is the Master”. The universe is holy!
An ancient document has been recently discovered in Upper Egypt. The document contains a number of “New Sayings” of Jesus. One of them is:
Jesus said: “If those who lead you, Behold! The Kingdom is in Heaven, then the birds of Heaven will precede you!
If they say to you that it is in the sea, then the fish will precede you!
But the Kingdom is within you and the Kingdom is outside of you.”
This “New Saying” of Jesus sounds the central note of the Gita: “Seated am I in the heart of each. And the One Atman is in the universe around you! Who sees the Lord in every creature, deathlessly dwelling amid the mortal, he truly sees!”
Krishna calls upon Arjuna to act, but in this vision of the One Self in all. Stand up, 0 Arjuna, says Krishna. Stand up and fight as a knight of the Atman that is Eternal!
Verily, he who acts thus is truly wise. He acts yet hath no desire for “fruits” of action. He acts yet is not imprisoned in action’s chain. He acts yet is free. Having conquered desire, he needs nothing. “Thou, Krishna! Thou art my All! And having Thee, I need not anything!” he says. Such a man acts and rises beyond action to the Eternal. He acts but lusteth not after anything. He acts yet calleth not anything as his own. He acts but is not bound. He acts but is free. Broken are his bonds. Illumined is his heart. His life becomes a mirror which reflects the One Supreme.
This message gave the Lord, five thousand years ago. This message was re-worded by Shankara- the Teacher of Reality- in the eighth century, when India’s need was piteous. This message may yet save modern civilisation. For I hold that Krishna’s life and teaching are not for India alone, they are for the world. And centuries may well meet at the Lotus Feet of him who emptied himself of his glory and palyed with the little ones, and loved cows and birds, and loved the forlorn and the forsaken ones, the sinner and the lost, and loved, too, each lotus of the lake and each lily of the field.
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