The Spirit of Bhagavad Gita
As Bhagavad Gita As It Is will be the basis of our discussions on the Krishna Connect website I would like to give you a general overview of the book. This overview will continue in the next few articles.
Even if you have already read the Gita I think you will find this information interesting. Bhagavad Gita is an amazing book. Even if you were to read the entire book every day of your life, every day you will still find new inspiration in it. So please read this carefully. I may be asking you questions about it later!
Firstly I would like to offer my respectful obeisances to my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhuapda, because without the knowledge he has most mercifully given us I would still be completely in darkness as far as spiritual knowledge is concerned. It is only because of his mercy that I can say anything of value.
Bhagavad Gita contains the essence of all spiritual knowledge spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna. Because Bhagavad Gita is spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one need not read any other spiritual literature. One need only regularly and attentively hear and read Bhagavad Gita.
At the present time mankind is so absorbed with day-to-day activities related to simply surviving in this world that he does not have the time to read all the Vedic literatures. But that is not necessary, this one book Bhagavad Gita is sufficient.
Bhagavad Gita appears within the Mahabharata. Mahabharata means the “the history of Greater India.” So the conversation we hear between Krishna and Arjuna actually happened. It is history. And if you would like to understand everything that happened before and after this conversation, that is available also, in the Mahabharata. However Bhagavad Gita is the very essence, the very nectar of the Mahabharata. So simply studying the Gita is sufficient.
There are thousands of translations of Bhagavad Gita available and we are not just studying any translaton of Bhagavad Gita, and there is a very good reason for this. We are studying Bhagavad Gita As It Is by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and he describes that the reason he has given us this translation is as as far as he can see in America, and even in India, practically all the other translations of the Gita that are available in the market do not convey the real spirit of the Bhagavad Gita. In practically all the other editions the commentator expresses his own opinions without touching on the spririt of Bhagavad Gita.
And what is the spirit of Bhagavad Gita? Arjuna was the first student of the Gita, so we can understand the spirit of the Gita by seeing how Arjuna relates to Krishna, how he accepts Krishna and the instructions given by Krishna.
Arjuna accepts Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And he gives evidence that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead also, by saying that all the great authorities in the past also accepted Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And Krishna also establishes Himself as the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the Gita. Therfore we should take Bhagavad Gita in this spirit. Understand it as Arjuna understood it from Krishna.
Krishna tells Arjuna that the Bhagavad Gita is not new. He tells Arjuna that He originally spoke the Gita to the Sun god, Vivasvan, at the beginning of the creation, and that the knowledge was handed down through the saintly kings from generation to generation, but now that knowledge had become lost, so therefore Krishna again spoke that same original knowledge to Arjuna.
A very important question is why did Krishna decide to speak this topmost spiritual knowledge to Arjuna? Arjuna was a warrior. A fighter. There were many other, seemingly more qualified people who Krishna could have spoken the Gita to. Why did he pick Arjuna?
Krishna tells Arjuna that He is relating this supreme secret to him because he is His devotee and His friend. Therefore the Bhagavad Gita is best understood by a person who has qualities similar to Arjuna’s. That is to say he must be a devotee in a direct relationship with Krishna.
We all have a relationship with Krishna eternally. However in the material state of life that eternal relationship is covered and we are unaware of our relationship with Krishna. But the process of Krishna consciousness can revive that original relationship.
The way Arjuna accepted the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita from Krishna should be noted. His manner of acceptance is given in the Tenth Chapter.
“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal Divine Person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original, and You are the unborn and all-pervading beauty. All the great sages like Narada, Asita, Devala and Vyasa proclaim this of You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me. O Krishna I totally accept as truth all that You have told me. Neither the gods, nor demons, O Lord, know thy personality. (Bg. 10.12-14)
So this is the spirit of Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna tells Krishna the he accepts whatever He says to be completely perfect, “I accept everything You say to be true.” Arjuna says that the personality of Krishna is very difficult to understand, that Krishna can not be known even by the great demigods. Therefore if even the beings greater than humans can not understand Krishna how can any human understand Him without becoming His devotee?
Therefore Bhagavad Gita should be taken up in a spirit of devotion. One should not think that he is equal to Krishna, nor should he think that Krishna is an ordinary personality or even a very great personality. Lord Sri Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, at least theoretically, according to the statements of Bhagavad Gita, or the statements of Arjuna, the person who is trying to understand the Bhagavad Gita.
We should therefore at least theoretically accept Sri Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead and with that submissive spirit we can understand the Bhagavad Gita. Unless one reads the Bhagavad Gita in a submissive spirit, it is very difficult to understand because it is a great mystery.
Thank you for reading this newsletter. In a couple of days I will post the next instalment, “Just What is the Bhagavad Gita?“