I am writing this blog post after going through an english version of the Bhagavad Gita text and a lot of online videos. I can only say that I have understood some of the points and will require many more readings to get a better understanding of the Bhagavad Gita. To be frank, in my 20s I had no inclination towards spirituality and thought that books like the Bhagavad Gita are for the monks and old people. But after going through the book just once I can say with utmost confidence that it needs to be internalized in our early years to reap maximum benefits. It contains all the points that can give a good foundation to an individual at any stage in life. This ancient Indian text covers a broad range of spiritual topics, ethical dilemmas and philosophical issues that go far beyond the war.
The Gita is a bouquet composed of the beautiful flowers of spiritual truths collected from the Vedas and the UpanishadsSwami Vivekananda
The Bhagavad Gita, or The Gita as it is popularly known, is part of the epic Mahabharata. The name “Bhagavad Gita” means “The song of the lord”. It was originally written in Sanskrit language by the Saint Vyasa who had even authored the epic Mahabharata. The Gita is the discourse given by Krishna to the warrior prince Arjuna just before the war is about to begin. Krishna is identified as the supreme power. Though the discourse was given during the war it contains only the essence of Vedic wisdom. This ancient text has been translated into most of the languages in the world that shows its relevance and popularity.
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. My life has been full of external tragedies and if they have not left any visible or invisible effect on me, I owe it to the teaching of the Bhagavad gita.Mahatma gandhi
I would like to highlight a few of the verses that i found to be truly inspiring.
Performing one’s duties
"Karmanyevadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadachana
Ma karmaphalaheturbhurma te sangostvakarmani" BG 2/47
You have the right to action alone, never to its fruit. Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction.
I had mentioned about this popular verse in one of my previous blogs on Karma yoga. This verse simply tells us to perform our actions with utmost diligence. Let the focus be on action alone and not the result. Even inaction is not good. This same principle applies to the act of selfless service. Constant practice of this will lead to purification/stilling of the mind from impure thoughts.
"Yogastah kuru karmani sangam tyaktva dhananjaya
Siddyasiddyoh samo bhutva samatvam yoga ucyate" BG 2/48
O Arjuna, be established in yoga. Perform actions abandoning attachment and be balanced in success and failure. Such equanimity is called yoga.
While concentrating on the action/present, one cannot be in the past or in the future, and the past regrets and future anxieties cannot make one suffer. Once one is in the present moment, one can only take conscious decisions.
"Yatkarosi yadasnasi yajjuhosi dadasi yat Yattapasyasi kaunteya tatkurusva madarpanam" BG 9/27
Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in a sacrifice, whatever you donate, whatever you practice as penance, O Arjuna, offer it to me.
This is about offering to the inner pure consciousness passively through thought only. Shri Krishna says that we can convert any action into a penance if we imbibe it with the attitude of worship. The angle of divinizing is necessary to dilute the doership attitude of rajasika and tamasika nature. Thus stress and worries start to reduce. There is also a mention that Karma yoga is complete with the attitude of devotion/bhakti. Without devotional attitude there is a high possibility of performing wrongful actions.
Siddhyasiddhyohnirvikarah karta satvika uchyate" BG 18/26
The person who is free from all material attachment and ego, who is enthusiastic and determined and who is balanced in success and failure is of satvika nature.
This verse tells us about the quality required to excel. A person with a good nature is one who is free from all material attachment and ego. Being enthusiastic and with a mind focused on the goal, he is even minded in success and failure. Such a person is known to be of satvika/good nature. However, it’s important to note that we are all a mixture of goodness(satvika), passion(rajasika) and ignorance(tamasika), but one of these mode always predominates.
"Sattvaatsanjaayate jnyaanam rajaso lobha eva cha
Pramaadamohau tamaso bhavatojnyaanameva cha" BG 14/17
From the sattva/goodness arises knowledge, from the rajas/passion arises greed, and from the tamas/ignorance arises negligence and delusion.
Sattva nature gives rise to wisdom, which confers the ability to discriminate between right and wrong. It also pacifies the desires of sense gratification, and creates a concurrent feeling of happiness and contentment. People influenced by it are inclined towards intellectual pursuits and virtuous ideas. Thus, the mode of goodness promotes wise actions. Whereas tamas nature leads to the downfall of a person, while rajas nature being neither good nor bad, may sometimes indicate egoistic characteristic.
Atmaiva hyatmano bandhuratmaiva ripuratmanah" BG 5/6
A man must elevate himself by his own mind, not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.
Build yourself through the power of your own will and efforts and do not be let down by your own self. Letting yourself down may be anything like, regarding yourselves as a weakling, as a nobody, as a sinner, as helpless victim, etc. For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends, but for one who has failed to do so, his very mind will be the greatest enemy.
"Yadyadacarati sresthastattadevetaro janah
Sa yatpramanam kurute lokastadanuvartate" BG 3/21
Whatever action is performed by an eminent person, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standard he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.
Humanity is inspired by the ideals that they see in the lives of great people. Such leaders inspire society by their example and become shining beacons for the masses to follow. When noble leaders are in the forefront, the rest of society naturally gets uplifted in morality, selflessness, and spiritual strength. The same logic applies to companies wherein employees look up to their managers and leaders as role models.
"Dhyayato vishayanpumsah sangasteshupajayate
Sangatsanjayate kamah kamatkrodhobhijayate" BG 2/62
"Krodhadbhavati sammohah sammohatsmritivibhramah
Smritibhranshad buddhinasho buddhinashatpranashyati" BG 2/63
While contemplating over the object of senses, attachment for the object arises. From attachment is born desire, and from desire is born anger. From anger comes delusion, from delusion comes bewilderment of memory, from bewilderment of memory comes destruction of intellect, and once the intellect is destroyed, the man perishes.
This verse beautifully explains how a person with no control over the senses destroys oneself. The point to note here is that everything starts from a thought which needs to be cut off at that stage itself inorder to limit oneself. The entire sequence can be summarized as follows;
Constant thinking of material/pleasure objects -> attachment -> desire -> anger -> delusion -> bewilderment of memory -> destruction of intellect -> individual perishes.
"matrasparshastu kaunteya shitoshnasukhaduhkhadah
agamapayinonityastanstitikshasva bharata" BG 2/14
O Arjuna, the interaction between the senses and the sense-objects produce the sensations of cold, heat, pleasure and pain. These feelings are temporary, always appearing and then disappearing. Thus, O Arjuna, you must learn to tolerate them.
In the previous verse we came to know about the effect of surrendering to the senses and when to restrain ourselves. As humans with sense organs it is obvious to go through sensations of happiness and distress. These sensations are not permanent. If we permit ourselves to be affected by them, we will sway like a pendulum from side to side. A person of discrimination should practice to tolerate the different feelings without being disturbed by them. The tolerance of sense perception can be mastered by the practice of meditation as explained in Chapter 6.
"indriyani paranyahurindriyebhyah param manah
manasastu para buddhiryo buddheh paratastu sah" BG 3/42
It is declared that the senses are superior than the body, the mind is superior to than the senses, but more than the mind the intelligence is superior and more than the intelligence that which is superior is the individual consciousness.
I had mentioned about a similar verse in one of my previous blogs on meditation. This is a verse with a profound meaning that provides us a hierarchy of our nature, of which the body is the most tangible aspect. Superior than the body are the senses. Superior than the senses is the mind, which generates reactions in the form of emotions and thoughts, but lacks decision making power. Superior than the mind is the intellect, which can analyze and understand the thoughts generated by the mind, and has the power to control the mind, the senses and the body. This sequence gives us a clue for character building. From the sequence we can understand that what we feed the senses will become part of our mind and intellect. If this continues for a long time it will become our character. So it is necessary to stop any toxicity at the sense perception stage itself, else it will be too difficult to stop when the mind and intellect becomes contaminated.
"yato yato nishcharati manaschanchalamasthiram
tatastato niyamyaitadatmanyeva vasham nayet" BG 6/26
From whatever and wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the Self.
This verse is a practical guide on how to perform meditation. Shri Krishna elaborates on what exactly is the aspect of meditation that needs constant practice and repetition. He urges the meditator to check the mind as soon as it strays into another thought, and bring it back to the thought of the self. The object of focus can be anything like the breath, space between the two eyebrows, picture of “OM”, any of the divine gods etc. If this technique is followed the mind will become quiet eventually.
"Shri bhagavan uvacha partha naiveha namutra vinashastasya vidyate
Na hi kalyanakritkashchiddurgatim tata gachchhati" BG 6/40
The Supreme Lord said: O Arjuna, such a person does not meet with destruction or distress, either in this world or the next, one who performs acts of virtue.
Lord Krishna is stating the Law of Karma here. As long as you are doing good deeds in the present, your mind will be at peace and you are assured of success in future. So all you have to do is abide by your own conscience.
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