The Bhagavad-Gita is one of the most important religious texts of the Hindus. It is also regarded as one of the greatest scriptures of mankind. The Gita contains the essence of the knowledge, the philosophy and the wisdom of the ancient Vedas and the Upanishads. The Bhagavad Gita is an important and integral part of the great Hindu epic The Mahabharata.
Gita as a Book
The Mahabharat in terms of its sheer vastness is by far the biggest epic of all mankind. It consists of 18 books. The Gita is in book six, the book of Bhishma. It consists of seven hundred verses spread over 18 chapters.
The Gita is set in the backdrop of the Great War fought between cousins. The five sons of Pandu, the Pandavas led by the eldest Yuddhistir . The hundred sons of the blind king Dhritarashtra, the elder brother of Pandu. The Kauravas led by the eldest Duryodhana.
The Pandavas stood for a good while the Kauravas stood for evil. The Pandavas had been unfairly deprived of their Kingdom by the Kauravas. Pandavas were forced to spend 13 years in exile, the last year without being discovered. When they had completed their period of exile, they asked for their kingdom from the Kauravas. Then, Duryodhan refused to return their kingdom to them.
The Pandavas were essentially peace-loving people. They wanted to avoid violence and bloodshed at all costs. Therefore they tried all possible peaceful ways to get their kingdom back from the Kauravas. They even sent Lord Krishna to negotiate and make Duryodhana see reason but all in vain. Duryodhana just would not listen. The Pandavas were even willing to settle for only five villages. This too was rejected by the Duryodhana. He was not willing to give them any land at all. In Duryodhana’s own words not land even to cover the tip of a needle.
What did Pandavas do?
All peaceful overtures by the Pandavas having failed. The stage was set for war the Pandavas had no choice but to fight for what was rightfully theirs. They mobilized their allies and with their army gathered on the holy field of Kurukshetra. They gathered to battle with the Kauravas forces of Duryodhan and his allies.
Prince Arjun one of the Pandavas brothers was the greatest Archer warrior of his time. He along with his other brother the mighty Bhima was the mainstay of the Pandava army. Yuddhistira was banking on him to win them the war. Lord Krishna, God incarnated himself became Arjun’s saarthi, his chariot driver and advisor for the war. However, when the war was about to begin seeing his grand sire, his kinsmen and his friends in the opposing army. Arjuna suffers a crisis of conscience.
When Arjuna realizes that victory in the war can only be achieved by killing his relatives, his teachers, his friends, his own near and dear ones. He loses his nerve. And he is overcome with doubt, pity and remorse. Confused about his duty he puts down his bow and arrows. He refused to fight and sits down in his chariot despondent and dejected. Lord Krishna stepped in, at this critical juncture and delivered the discourse of the Gita to the dejected and the distressed Arjuna on the field of battle itself in the middle of both the armies.
The Bhagavad-Gita is thus a dialogue between God incarnate himself, Lord Krishna and the wavering warrior Prince Arjun. Where the Lord addresses all the concerns, all the doubts and all the misgivings of the warrior prince on the field of battle itself.
Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that the soul is immortal and that it can never die while the body is mortal and that it must die. He tells Arjuna that his duties only to do work and not to worry about the fruit of work. The tells about selfless work, renouncing the fruit of work, one’s duty, the harmony of yoga and Brahma the supreme, the absolute. He tells about the reasons for his incarnation, the circumstances in which he is born into this world.
Whenever Dharma declines and sin dominates then is God born into the world for the protection of the good, for the destruction of the evil and for re-establishing Dharma. Lord Krishna is born into this world again and again. He tells about devotion to God, about one’s Dharma, one’s righteous and ordained duty. He tells about sacrifice and renunciation and surrender to the Lord, the field of action, about the knower of the field of action and knowledge of both.
Lord Krishna tells about the different kinds of his devotees and the qualities of those devotees. He tells Arjun about how to meditate, the ways of controlling the mind, the three attributes of nature. These are satva-guna light and goodness, rajo-guna fire and passion and the tamo-guna dark, evil and dullness. And also about their effect on and interaction with all other activities. Lrd Krishna tells about the divine and the demonic qualities of a man. He also tells about the various kinds of foods, the various kinds of sacrifices, the different kinds of charity, the different types of knowledge, intelligence, perseverance and happiness following the attributes of nature.
About the Cycle of Birth and Death.
Krishna tells about persons of steadfast wisdom, about controlling the triad of desire, anger and greed. He tells about the tree of life with its roots spread out in the world of man. He also tells about how to cross over the temporal physical world to attain Redemption and liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Krishna also describes his various and different manifestations reveal to Arjuna. His all-encompassing cosmic divine form and finally assuring Arjuna that he would give refuge to him and also free him from all sins. Lord Krishna concludes his discourse here.
In the Lord’s discourse of the Gita the doubts, the confusion, the ignorance and the delusion, the crisis of conscience which had taken hold of Arjun and which had weakened him, all go away. He becomes calm and composed, regains his nerve and agrees to fight the war. He fights the Kauravas defeats them and restores the kingdom to its rightful king his brother Yudhisthira.
What is Bhagavad Gita for Hindus?
The Bhagavad-Gita occupies an incredibly special place in the hearts and the lives of the Hindu people for thousands of years. People find comfort in the divine words of the Bhagavad Gita. They do not regard the Bhagavad Gita as just a holy scripture but also as the key. The Key helps unlock the mysteries of life and helps in dealing with the problems of everyday life. For them, it is not just a book of philosophy and religion. It is a handbook a kind of ready reckoner which helps them in dealing with the ups and downs of life with its nitty-gritty, with its everyday problems and with its crises. Thereby it helps in bringing peace and tranquillity to their lives in the process.
Among all the great religious or spiritual discourses of the world, the Bhagavad Gita is probably the only such discourse to have been delivered on the field of battle. The Gita tells us the battle we have to fight is not just a physical battle with our outside enemies. It is also an internal and spiritual battle with the enemies inside us.
The Gita impact on life.
The Gita not only brings the wavering warrior back to the path of duty and inculcates in him again his lost sense of duty by dispelling his doubts and his ignorance. It also puts him on the right path to life spirituality and emancipation. In life, we have enemies all around us. They are not only outside surrounding us. They are also firmly entrenched within us as well in our minds and our hearts. Vanquishing all these outer and inner enemies and showing the right path to emancipation and liberation is the main objective, the main aim of the Gita.
The Gita lists out four paths to liberation and emancipation- the path of knowledge, the path of selfless work, the path of meditation and the path of devotion. Hindu philosophy recognises all these as the pathways leading to emancipation and liberation.
Among all the great religions discourses of the world, the Gita is perhaps the only one that describes the various paths but then leaves it to the individual to choose his path. The Gita gives us Liberty, the freedom to choose our path of liberation.