Hi Friends, I think almost all of you know of Bhagawad Gita. Today let us venture into the reasoning and thought process of the foundations over which Bhagawad Gita was build upon. This article should form the basic theoretical minimum in order to understand Gita, in a right way. There have been many interpretations of this grand source by many adepts and I want to give that base which strengthens each of those explored interpretations of the past. It will be better if you also equip some knowledge from one of my earlier articles 18) Secrets of the epic – Mahābhārata
What is Gita:
The word “Gita” means a song. A song sung by the lord is called “Bhagawad Gita”. Well, this is the most common definition every one gives. It is true. But is that the whole truth? How to understand this statement – “Song sung by the lord” ? That is the right question to ask. Instead of nodding our heads to what others say (including the great saints), we need first make truce with our own intuition. As lord Buddha said:
“that we must not believe in a thing said merely because it is said; nor traditions because they have been handed down from antiquity; nor rumors, as such; nor writings by ages, because sages wrote them; nor fancies that we may suspect to have been inspired in us by a Deva (that is, in presumed spiritual inspiration); nor from inferences drawn from some haphazard assumption we may have made; nor because of what seems an analogical necessity; nor on the mere authority of our teachers or masters. But we are to believe when the writing, doctrine, or saying is corroborated by our own reason and consciousness. For this, I taught you not to believe merely because you have heard, but when you believed of your consciousness, then to act accordingly and abundantly.”
—Secret Doctrine III. 401. (adapted from Alice Bailey’s “A treatise on Cosmic Fire”)
That should be our approach in life. What is a song? A song is a periodical occurrence of meaningful sounds – A tune + Meaning of the tuned set of syllables. The creation is periodic in its occurrence and it is melodious with many rhythms in it. The meaning lies in the purpose of its existence. The colors, the sounds, the innumerable galaxies, principles of biology, physics, the existence of LIFE, etc., form this ONE song’s many attributes. This is the song sung by the lord. It is called Bhagawad Gita in actuality. The manual that helps us understand the scheme of this song of Existence is the “scripture/book” of Gita that is available to us. When we approach the scripture, we need to approach it with the idea that it can give us guidance and hints to learn and understand the music of the ultra soul (universal existence). If we do not put into practice what we learn, there is no use listening to the song, even if it is sung by the lord!! Gita is properly understood only by synthesizing it with our daily life and resonating to that divine music.
The reality of Mahabharata:
We said that the Gita which we have in our hands (or online) is a book of scripture. What is a scripture? In fact, Gita forms a subset of a magnum opus of Mahabharata. Mahabharata is one of the grandest epics in the world. It is also one of the grand keys to understand the wisdom which is hidden at plain sight (which is ourselves), and yet invisible due to our ignorance.
But, what is a scripture? A scripture is an amalgamation of a truth and a historical event interwoven into a piece of literature. One often keep asking “Did the historical events of scriptures happen in reality?”, “Was Ramayana real?“, “Was Mahabharata real?“, etc. There are two ways to answer such questions.
- By physical proof of archaeology or astronomical dating, etc. But this cant help us answer such questions completely, because, the physical world is destined to perish and hence the facts associated with the events of physical world. So we will be left with half-truth and uncooked recipes.
- By understanding the principle behind a scripture. If we understand and can realize this foundation principle, we can daringly conclude the truth value of the scripture. How to understand this? One need to follow the guidance of scripture itself and test it along the way. This may be called axiomatic approach.
Given the limitation of first approach, we are left to follow the second approach if we have enough patience to do so. Otherwise we can blabber like any other impatient western/Indian so called scholars about the truth of scriptures, without thoroughly following the guidelines. Now, what is that principle we were speaking in the second approach, which underlies every scripture? Let us go point by point to understand its core.
- This physical creation (including life) is just 1/4th of total creation. 3/4ths of the total creation exist in immortal planes. If you refer Mystic Passages – 3: Purusha Suktam (stanza 3- stages of creation), you will understand this fact in a better way.
- What is the role of the hidden 3/4th of creation with respect to the physical world? It forms a “Causal World (kāraṇa lōka)” i.e., all the “causes” related to the effects of physical world lie in this causal world. So, whatever manifests physically has an cause in this causal world. For every cause, there may be multiple effects.
- The life that we see is the resultant of the manifestation of the net effect of the causes of this causal world. Is this not the theory of KARMA? Where does karma store when we leave physical body (or while living) and what does it mean to say “Karma effects us”? Is this not the principle of astrology as well? What does it mean to “predict”? So, the roots of objectification lie in the subjective world of “pure principles”.
- Let us focus on humans. By virtue of cyclical creation, humans (living beings/souls) have their associated “karma” in the causal world. The Goal of “KARMA” is always to be neutral/zero. This leads the piled up group karma to burst into a physical event (giving opportunity for people to nullify their karma, and hence attain Mōksha). When this event takes place individually, we call it LIFE. When this event takes place, periodically, on a large scale, bringing many such individual lives together, to interact (according to the kramic law), we call it a LEGEND or a History (“his”-story: the story of the ONE in all).
So, the reason for a historical event to occur lies in the principles of causal world. Remember, we too are part of total creation. Our body, senses etc., form the 1/4th but the remaining (our soul, our mind, etc., – which of course can not be quantified physically) belong to the 3/4th causal worlds. Thus, indeed we can enter the causal world with proper mechanism. This mechanism was discovered and utilized by our sages in preparing a scripture. So, a historical event, like Mahabharata was understood from its root principles, by Vēda Vyāsa and his disciples, which resulted into the present scripture of Mahabharata. Also, that which occurs globally, also occurs locally – Yat Piṇḍē Tat Brahmāṇḍē. So, the story of Mhabharata, if closely observed, occurs in our every day life too. This can be seen as hints given in my earlier articles: 45) Myth or a Symbol? – Story of Puranjana – Part-1. and 46) Myth or a Symbol? – Story of Puranjana – Part-2.
Let us go in reverse order. An event occurs physically, implies there is a cause for it. Because it occurs in everyone, there are millions of causes piled up in causal world. This would have resulted in a Global scale event in the past, of course. Thus the event of Mahabharata was real. May be the character names and other things were different, but the story and essence is intact. That is why, a sage always uses “Cryptic Names”. If sage would have used personal names like in our history books, except for those interested in mugging up, other people would have been lost in the plethora of the characters involved. But because the names chosen indicate the principles of causal world as well as their effects on physical world, the scripture still stands as light house for the lost ships.
Placement of the Gita:
If Mahabharat is the result of net effect of causes on objective world, and also, if it is the story of human’s history as well as of every human in their course of evolution, what is the place of Gita? As we explored earlier, Gita is the song of the Lord – a musical torch for us to resonate with. That is why Gita forms an integral part of Mahabharata. To understand it completely, one needs to understand the Mahabharata and where the Gita was placed in it. Everyone knows that Gita is the instruction manual (Q/As) given to Arjuna by Krishna just before war. Why did not the author place it else where? Like, Krishna would have taught Arjuna, the same message, when they were strolling on an evening walk or so. But because this was not authored and this was “perceived” by Vyāsa, the glorious song occurs where it has to occur.
There is a message to be decoded here. And this is understood only when some hints are given with respect to the character map of Mahabharata:
- Dhr̥tarāshṭra – The Blind King – Blinded Ego who is father of 100 (infinite) Kauravās, the results of a false-ego like Dhuryōdhana (jealousy), Duśyasana (pride), etc.
- Pāṇḍu – The Bright King – Light of five senses (pāṇḍavās, his sons). After the birth of his sons, the king dies i.e., the consciousness enters the properties of each sense. They all marry one connecting link – Draupadi (kriyā śakti, the creative energy). They are guided by Krishna (the god in all).
There is much more symbolism here, but this suffices for now. Let us consider ourselves. we have, what we call “sense of I am so and so”, which is often is the cause of friction/conflict within and without. The instruments used for this conflict are senses. The principle of senses always tell us to not engage in such conflicts, but we often end up in a conflict. For example, our stomach asks us not to eat junk food and yet we do. The result is a pain. This flight between principle of senses and the sons of false-ego is the WAR of Mahabharata in us.
When we realize the occurrence of this war, and when we give up, just like Arjuna does before the war, and also when we surrender to GOD (the true I AM in us), we will be given a chance to hear the MUSIC that is making the whole creation to dance – a Cosmic dance indeed, and gives us the motive to right action! That is why Gita occurs just before the war. It is the right time. When we are all good and happy, every one speaks philosophy. But when some one is in trouble and in pain, how often do we see them speaking philosophy or practicing the teachings? That is why it is this least expected time/scenario that called upon GITA into existence, to teach us how to “act” during a difficulty. This is the prime reason for its placement.
Field of Action – Kurukshetra:
We said earlier that Gita was preached by Krishna (universal spirit) to Arjuna (individual soul) just before the war (of objective and subjective worlds). Where was this war taking place? In the story, the place was named Kurukshetra. Is this a physical place in India? If so, what was its name before the name kurukshetra came to it? Was the name as is since dawn of time? In fact, how does a place gets its name? Depending on the space-time manifestation of causal principles, a place acquires a suitable name. Because the place of Mahabharata war, symbolically the war in our body as well as the war in universe (friction to emerge and evolve) occurred at that place, Vyāsa chose to call it by same name Kurukshetra.
Just like an individual taking a position of prime minister is addressed as prime minister, no mater the change in individual, the same applies to the “field of war/action”. Kuruskhetra has been symbolized as the land ploughed by the king Kuru for the prosperity of humanity, in myhtology. In Vedas it is named as the vast spaces from which everything emerge. What does it mean? Kurukshetra is physical body in which the causal world manifests as the objective effects or it is the physical space from which the drama of creation ever germinate. Its name and meaning from veda has been borrowed by Vyasa to adapt to the drama happening in the present war of Mahabharata. That is why the Gita starts with “Dharma Kshetre Kurukshetre ….“, meaning, the land of Kuruskhsetra (physical body and visible space) is the land of host to many a Dharma/Eternal Laws. This field of action is chosen by Krishna as a fitting stage to unveil Gita i.e., it is only by utilizing this physical body, can we enjoy the music of the soul (Gita). If leaving everything and going to Himalayas was the solution, as always proclaimed by pseudo vedantins, Krishna would have asked Arjuna to just leave and take a vacation from war. But instead, Krishna taught “Right Action” rather than “Inaction”. That is why Kurukshetra is also called “Field of Action“.
The clue of number – 18:
When Vyāsa envisioned the divine drama, it expressed through him in the form of core scripture, which he named JAYA. By the rules of ancient syllable-number association, i.e.,
Ka Kha Ga Gha Ǹ —- Ca Cha Ja Jha Ñ
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
Ṭa Ṭha Ḍa Ḍha Ṇa —- Ta Tha Da Dha Na
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
Pa Pha Ba Bha Ma
1 2 3 4 5
Ya Ra La Va Śa Ṣa Sa Ha
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
and the key aphorism that numbers are read leftward (ankānām vāmatō gatihi), we get
- JA = 8
- Ya = 1
- Hence JAYA = 81 reversed = 18.
Most if us know this. But, what we might have not know is the following. The clue to link Mahabharata to causal world theory (explored previously) lies in this number 18 and also in the fact that each canto of this scripture is named “PARVAM“. The lunar phases – No-Moon (Amāvāsya) and Full-Moon (Poornima) are called PARVAMS. How many parvams do we have in a lunar year cycle? 12 no-moons and 12 full moons = 24 parvams in total. But, as we said the 3/4th of total creation exists as “CAUSAL WORLD”, 3/4th of 24 parvams make 18 parvams. MOON is symbol of physical creation (pitr̥ dēvās) and also a symbol of MUSIC-GOD, SŌMA). Thus moon phases are symbols of complete objectification and musical of GOD. That is why its phase (periodically occurring and hence music) names are taken as canto’s name-parvam. The ancestors of the lead roles of Mahabharta too are said to be decedents of “Chandra Vamsa” (meaning objectifying lords).
Putting all these together, we can conclude that Mahabharata is the scripture of that manual which explains us how to understand the relation of CAUSAL world with objective world. The same number 18 is used in dividing the song of the lord, Gita as well. That is to suggest that, if Mahabharata is the extensive manual that teaches us the laws of causal world in relation to objective world, Gita forms the sublime undercurrent as a direct message from the lord himself, which then will directly orient us in intended direction, if we were to surrender our false-ego. Why else would Gita be divided into 18 and not 19 or 5 chapters?
The Scheme of Gita:
Look at the way Gita starts. Arjuna is the one sitting at the back of the chariot which is pulled by white horses. Krishna is its charioteer who steers it. They stand in the middle of both the armies of Light (Pānḍu) and Dark (Dhr̥tarāshtra). Arjuna, being disappointed at the sight of the armies, gives up and surrenders (slowly) himself to Krishna and asks for his guidance. Before all this, it is said that Krishna blows his conch – Pancha Janya and after that Arjuna blows his conch – Devadattam.
There is all that is needed to give a solid foundation in the scenario how Gita starts. The white horses are pure senses which pull the bodily chariot. The jiva/being is Arjuna, residing in the body at the back. But the charioteer is Krishna, who steers the actions of body from time to time. Unless we handover the steering to him, he cant help us. Dhuryodhana and Arjuna got chance to choose the charioteer. Arjuna choose and he won while Dhuryodhana chose not Krishna and he perished. That means, if we individually tread life and associate with it, we entangle in the web of karma. If we offer the action and fruits of action of life to Lord in us, we will be free from the effects of karma – a secret to contemplate. When it is ripe time, we will start to discriminate good from bad and this is the ripe situation of Arjuna. He stood in between the good and bad, the eternal dualities. Unable to realize the “Absolute Purpose”, he surrendered to GOD. GOD had to sing GITA, which expresses through our devoted life, which acted as a guiding lamp for the further life.
The concept of two entities – God almighty and created being – Jivaatma and Paramaatma is an age old concept. Here too the same is depicted. The ONE came down as Krishna, who stays with Arjuna, the jiva, in the same body/chariot the jiva is. So in our body itself NARAYANA exists. That is why the conch, a reverberating/resonating instrument of Krishna is called PANCHA JANYA – the birth place of FIVE (senses, bhūtās, etc.). Only after Krishna fills in air/prāna (life) into the penta-aspect of creation, can a living being enact his drama. So, only after Krishna filled his conch and sounded, did Arjuna blow into his conch, which is named – Dēvadattam, meaning – borrowed from god. Our life is borrowed as a part of divine life, is it not? The air we breath is not ours, but HIS. This principle of Nara and Nārāyaṇa in same body is depicted in Gita’s introduction.
In this article we set out a thorough basis, foundation and an introduction to approach Bhagawadgita as intended by the sages. I hope it is clear to all! All the best 🙂