Approach to the Bhagavad Gita

Hi Friends, how are you! I hope all of you and your acquaintances are staying safe in this troubling times. It is these uncontrollable times that test our inner-strength. I know most of you have enough strength to defend and support the country from any ailment. Yet, when struck by un-seen forces, our strength collapses and we seek light in any form and any intensity. It is during these times, we transform ourselves into Arjuna, who prior to the war collapsed and filled himself with melancholy, and thus we need the guidance of GOD-Krishna to take any further step. So, Gita is inevitable during these tough times for everyone of us to see the TRUTH and tread carefully on the dim-lit path of life.

Recently I have started to teach Gita (online) and I see much clearly the message of the Gita and its suitability for the present era. So I thought I will condense my thoughts into an article and this is one of such attempts. Hope it helps you to properly approach the Gita and gain the sweet nectar of wisdom offered by it.

Introduction:

Every world scripture is filled with many symbols. If the key of the symbol is not known, the scripture becomes obscure. Where do we find such keys? Usually the keys are scattered in the same scripture or other related scriptures. Is this not paradoxical? No, not at all! The apparent obscurity itself acts as a step for us to pause and contemplate on the truth behind the veil of limited logic which then opens the gates of our intuition. It is this intuition (and of course the grace of GOD in the form of a GURU) that helps us in accessing the scattered keys of the scripture which then unlock the vault of unlimited wisdom within the scripture. 

A scripture is verily ourselves in the physical form. Its pages are our lives and its words are the contents of our lives. The wisdom proclaimed by any scripture is the ONE in all and hence is the essence of the “I AM” in all. Its many keys are the multidimensional faculty of our discrimination (Buddhi) applied to the necessary aspects of life. Therefore, the garb of a world scripture may change with time, space, culture, etc., but not the content. 

Perspectives in the Gita:

Bhagavad-Gita takes a very prominent role amongst those scriptures which truly conveys the wisdom of the self – “I AM”. Just like any other scripture, it also has its own refined set of symbols without which the approach to Gita becomes side-tracked. A symbol is enwrapped in the cloth whose fiber is made of the key of  – number, color, shape, utility, etc. To decode a symbol, one needs to first go deep into the etymological origins of the word i.e., its root-words and then associate the meaning with the other keys. Therefore, etymological roots, its derivative evolution of the family-tree of words of a particular Sanskrit seed-word and the keys of numbers, colors, shape, etc., offer us much light in relation to the nature of a symbol used. The symbols explained later on will clarify this approach of Symbols.

Gīta can be understood from the perspective of

  • Mundane (M): Our relation with the external world – morality, ethics, duties, politics,  etc.
  • Spiritual (S): This consists of two sub-perspectives which are interrelated –
    • Spiritual – Microcosm (human): Our relation with our own true soul: mind, senses, thoughts, feelings, freedom of will, sense of ‘I am’, etc.
    • Spiritual – Macrocosm (cosmos): Relation of our soul to the spirit of the Cosmos.

The first perspective is denoted as (M) and the second perspective is denoted as (S). Why do we need two perspectives? Does not one of them suffice? Without the first, there is no use in developing the second whereas without the second, only the first cannot answer all the riddles of our life i.e., for example, what good is spiritual knowledge to an immoral deceiver and what good is the mundane knowledge to the one who seeks an explanation to their very existence in spite of being the nicest person on the Earth? So, both are needed for a balanced journey into the TRUTH of LIFE and that is why Gīta has two folds in its potential unfoldment scheme.

The mundane perspectives of the Gita purifies our link to the external world. Instead of cheating or deceiving, the one who mastered the Gita in the (M) sense, will help others no matter what. The spiritual perspectives are needed to elevate ourselves (souls) to the state of Universal Spirit (or unveil the spirit within the soul). Those who mastered the Gita in the (S) sense (here, one can either start with the microcosm or the macrocosm as they both are two sides of the same coin) will realize that the external world in which they live is verily filled by the same content that they are made up of – the ever existing lord Omnipresent – and the rest is nothing but the manifold expression of this unified content which is transient in its nature. This realization kills all the doubts and the person radiates the effulgence of divinity. The details of these two perspectives will be better understood as we proceed further in our explorations. With this background, let us decode the important symbols that are needed to start understanding the Gita:

Symbolism in the Gita:

  1. Krishna: He is the God incarnate. Gītā supports this proposition by addressing him as “Bhagavān” – the supreme being – instead of Krishna. Arjuna and Sanjaya address Krishna by many names such as Mādhava, Madusūdhana, etc., as they see him as the human incarnate (M). But the text itself addresses him as Bhagavān which means he is GOD in MAN (S). So, Vyāsa wants us to see Krishna as the Omnipresent LIGHT and not as anyone else. You will see that according to the Gītā, GOD is none other than the “I AM”  in everyone (that which is the background of the many individual “I am-s”). 
  2. Arjuna: He is the Man, created by God, in his search for the absolute TRUTH. According to Sajaya and others, he is the human who seeked metal upliftment from the melancholy that overtook his mind before the start of the war (M). But Krishna, the God in Man, saw him as the ‘Man in God’, for, he was about to initiate and submerge Arjuna into his own LIGHT of Omnipresence (S).

As per Gita , Krishna and Arjuna come in a chariot pulled by 5 white horses. Why white horses and why 5 of them?

  1. Horse – Aśva: Aśva is a horse. White is considered to be pious and the 5 horses imply a greater force with which they pull the chariot and therefore conveys the swiftness of the chariot. This is according to (M). When seen according to (S), one should first go into the etymological key of Aśva.  Aśva = aśnutē vyāpnōti sarvatra = that which moves everywhere. In our bodies, it is the senses which take us everywhere – sense of sight takes us to the mountain top or a green valley. Sense of smell takes us to a nice restaurant. How many senses do we have that help us interact with the outside world? 5 senses – sense of sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste. To symbolize that Arjuna, who is the human sense of “I am”, is driven to everywhere in the external world by the five senses, five horses are assigned. But why White? White denotes purity and hence to stress on the point that Arjuna is the symbol of no ordinary human but a symbol of that disciple who is pure at the core (surrendered to the light within and without).  
  2. Chariot – Charioteer: The horses are pulling the chariot. Krishna is the charioteer and hence directs the direction in which the horses move (M). By the Vēdic tenets, “Śarīraṃ rathamēvaca” = The body is the chariot, a human body is also considered as a chariot. Previously we have seen that the 5 horses are pulling the chariot of Arjuna. Here, the chariot of Arjuna is symbolic to the body of the yearning disciple. When the disciple surrenders to the light within, the steering of life is given to the hands of the same light, the GOD in MAN and hence, Krishna is said to be the charioteer of Arjuna’s chariot (S).
  3. Dhritarashtra – Pandu: Dhritarashtra was blind by birth, had been always jealous, supported the dark path of his sons, etc. Pandu was bright by birth, father of 5 great sons and an embodiment of many of the divine qualities. So, Dhritarashtra is a symbol of our blindness to the darkness outside (M) and the darkness within (S). Pandu is the germinative principle of the five bright faculties in us enhancing the world of 5-elements that in which we live in (M) as well as enhancing the inner development of 5-fold nature in us.

In the mundane sense (M), Arjuna was the warrior who came to fight his battle of life and Krishna was his charioteer, brother in-law, well wisher and most importantly his Guru. When Arjuna collapses due to melancholy, Krishna teaches him the Gita and makes him ready for the war. So Gita is a discourse on ‘the external battle of life’ for all those Arjunas who face the ultimate difficulty of finding out the ‘right choice’ at the ‘right time’. When Gita is understood in the (M) sense, one transforms from passivity of inaction to activity of right action

In spiritual sense (S), Arjuna is symbolic for every human being who yearns for the absolute TRUTH of existence. Krishna is the light within who uplifts such sincere aspirants to the heights of Divinity which makes them see through the complex network of the web of lives, the unified link which connects all as ONE. When Gītā is understood in (S) sense, the aspirant or spiritual seeker elevates his individual consciousness and merges it with the Universal consciousness.

Conclusion:

The goal in this article was not to elaborately comment and discuss the essence of Gīta from a scholarly perspective but to give a set of keys to the aspirants which lets them approach the ONE truth which many good works extol. The (M) and (S) perspectives help the reader to understand the world they live in – both the internal as well as the external in the light of the above symbol of the Gita. The summary view helps them to go beyond the dual perspectives and experience the God’s Song as the rhythm of their life’s expression.

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