The Essence of Bhagavad Gita: Part I - The Theme (fwd)

Ravisankar S. Mayavaram aum at UNIX.TAMU.EDU
Sat Jul 5 11:13:02 CDT 1997

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 03 Jul 1997 15:20:01 -0400
From: Ram Chandran <chandran at>
To: aum at
Subject: The Essence of Bhagavad Gita: Part I - The Theme
	The Essence of Bhagavad Gita: Part I - The Theme

	Bhagavad Gita synthesizes Hindu Philosophical themes into a single
thesis comprising eighteen chapters.  Gita was compiled by Sage Vyaasa
who was blessed by the Lord to complete this monumental task for the
benefit of humanity. Gita is a comprehensive summary of the profound
philosophical and spiritual ideas expressed in the Upanishads.   The
main theme of Gita is to help the human race to understand the Divinity
and reestablish True Human Nature.  The Bhagavad Gita stresses the
importance of work obligations and the necessity for their fulfillment. 
The most important message of Gita is the assertion that actions are
inevitable and excuses are unforgivable.  Bhagavad Gita has guided the
life of Mahatma Gandhi and gave him the moral and spiritual strength
during India's freedom struggle against the British Empire. Gandhi gave
the following tribute to Gita:  "I find a solace in the Bhagavad Gita
that I miss even in the Sermon on the Mount. When disappointment stares
me in the face and all alone, I see no one ray of light, I go back to
the Bhagavad Gita. I find a verse here and a verse there and I
immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming tragedies - and
my life has been full of external tragedies - and if they have left no
visible, no indelible scar on me,  I owe it all the teachings of the
Bhagavad Gita." M. K. Gandhi, young India (1925), pp. 1078-79.
	Dr. Radhakrishnan beautifully elaborates the context of the dialog that
took place between the human intellect (Arjun)  and the universal
consciousness (Lord Krishna).  "The distress of Arjun is a dramatization
of a perpetually recurring predicament. Man on the threshold of higher
life, feels disappointed with the glamour of the world and yet illusions
cling to him and he cherishes them. He forgets his divine ancestry and
becomes attached to his personality and is agitated by the conflicting
forces of the world.  Before he wakes up to the world of spirit and
accepts the obligations imposed by it, he has to fight the enemies of
selfishness and stupidity, and overcome the dark ignorance of his self-
centered ego. It is the evolution of the human soul that is portrayed
here.  There are no limits of time and space to it.  The fight takes
place every moment in the soul of man," (The Bhagavad Gita,
S.Radhakrishnan, Published by Blackie & Son Publishers Pvt. Ltd. Bombay,
India,  page 95, second paragraph )
	Bhagavad Gita uses a subtle dialog between the intellect and
consciousness to educate  the value and purpose of human life.  The
essence of Gita is to emphasize the importance of preparing our mind and
soul to accept all obligations without hesitation and without expecting
rewards. The subtle message of Gita is to point out that the world is an
infinite dimensional matrix with a row of actors and a column of actions
and every actor interacts with every action and vice-versa.  The human
perception is not equipped to understand and judge the results of such
interactions and identify the contributors and their contributions. 
Consequently,  everyone erroneously perceives the roles and their
importance and their consequences.  These impressions are the cause for
the plurality and the illusory likes and dislikes, good and bad, pain
and pleasure and right and wrong.   
	Swami Dayananda of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam illustrates the distinction
between human perception and divine perception using a thought-provoking
example.  The divine perception of a banana is always a banana.  But
human perception creates likes and dislikes for a banana.  Some of us
may say, "I like banana".  Others may say, "I hate banana."   This
creation likes and dislikes are the result of  sensory perceptions.  The
creator has intention for this creation of impressions and images. The
human imagination multiplies the divine creation with additional notions
including likes, dislikes, tall, short, sweet, rotten, etc.  If and when
human perception reaches the level of Divine perception the plurality
disappears from the mind and inner peace reappears and stays. Gita
guides us to understand and avoid the dangers of the sensory perceptions
and the importance of gaining the True Human Nature.
	Gita identifies the person with the True Human Nature with a Sanskrit
title, ‘Sthitaprajna.'  The seeker of the TRUTH Arjun begins his enquiry
directly to the Divinity (Lord Krishna) with the question: " What is the
description of the man who has this firmly founded wisdom, whose being
is steadfast in spirit, O Krishna? How should the man of settled
intelligence speak, how should he sit, how should he walk?" (Gita,
chapter 2 and verse 54).   The verses 55 to 72 in chapter 2 discusses
the virtues of Stitaprajna in greater details. The dialog between the
human and divine continues in question and answer sessions until it ends
in chapter 18.   At the end of the long dialog, the Lord asks Arjun
whether his ignorance is dispelled? (Gita:  Chapter 18, Verse 72 ). 
Arjun replies that he has regained his wisdom and True Human Nature 
(Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 73). This is the last verse of the dialog
between Arjun and Lord Krishna.
	According to Gita,  Sthitaprajna attains the Universal Wisdom of
Eternal Peace by abandoning the illusory pain and sufferings.  The Lord
insists that eternal peace, happiness, discriminating intelligence and
concentration can be realized only by freeing the mind from sensory
perceptions.  Gita does not claim that the task is easy and it gives
complete guidance for achieving the True Human Nature in chapters two to
18.  Gita asserts that it is achievable for everyone who is willing to
take the necessary efforts, discipline and dedication.  The Grace of God
always comes with true dedication, discipline and devotion. In Gita,
action is much more important than prayer and expression of Bhakti come
through the completion of obligations. The only reward for the action is
action itself! For a devotee, the action is the prayer and action
becomes the prasad (inner peace) of God.  The Grace of God is our life,
our actions and the results of those actions!
	Gita describes the relationships between sensory perception, ego, human
intelligence and divine intelligence.  According to Gita,  the sensory
perceptions are the barriers for gaining the divine intelligence.  Ego
is the byproduct of sensory perception. Ego distracts human intelligence
to lose its discriminating power. Consequently the intellect
misidentifies SELF by body, mind and intellect.  The distractions and
misconceptions can be eradicated only through spiritual practice
(sadhana) outlined in Gita.  Those who follow the spiritual life
understand their obligation and perform their role without anticipating
rewards. They respect the role of every living and nonliving entity of
the world and recognize their value and contributions.  Gita implicitly
wants all of us to understand that the world is much more than what we
see, hear, touch and feel!
  	Sthitaprajna perceives the world without conflicts and sorrows and
accepts the world as it is!  For such  persons the world is always
perfect and they always recognize that should be prepared to change
their attitude according to the needs of the world.  Mahatma Gandhi once
said,  "The only change that the world needs, is you!" For a
sthitaprajna like Gandhi, the "attitude" of the perceiver is more
important than the perceived object. The attitude determines the
outcome, those with positive mental attitudes succeed and those with
negative mental attitudes become miserable and fail.  Successful
lawyers, doctors, political leaders and corporate executives know this
secret mantra for success.  Gita implicitly advises that we should
develop positive mental attitude and keep our eyes, ears and mind
completely open by negating all preconceived notions.  
	Every verse in Gita contains a compelling message and certain message
is often repeated to highlight a theme or to display its significance. 
Divinity is beyond time and humanity is ever bounded by time!  As a
human, I have the privilege to make mistakes and let me use my limited
intelligence to choose a selective group of few verses for the
discussion.  I will try my level best to keep the discussion of the
verses to the bare minimum. Readers can get more extensive commentaries
from references at the end.
	The cause for the dialog between the human and the divine is summarized
in verse 47 of chapter 1.  Vyaasa describes the helplessness of Arjun
while his mind is seized by emotion, ego, ignorance and stupidity.  The
human Arjun is overwhelmed by emotion and self-pity and collapses on the
seat of his chariot. He throws down his bow, arrow and dignity. 
Momentarily, the pervading True Human Natures withdraws from his SELF
and the body, mind and intellect takes full control over Arjun. 
Ignorance, selfishness, self-centered ego, emotion and stupidity take
over his personality.  These external forces influence him to neglect
his obligation to fight the war.  Suddenly, a flash of light from his
subconscious mind comes for his rescue to detach him from his ego.  He
prepares to surrender his ego and looks for help. This is the moment of
TRUTH and the Divinity stands right before him and is always ready to
help.    (to be continued)

P.S.	Please give me a couple of weeks to present part II.  Till then, I
am looking forward to your comments and further insights.

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