By Sri Swami Sivananda
Bhagavan Vyasa and Lord Krishna
Avatara of Lord Hari, Flute-Bearer of Brindavan, Joy of Devaki Beloved of Radha
Redeemer of the Fallen Friend of Arjuna
The Lakkshya of Devotees
The Bhagavad Gita is one of the world-scriptures today. It guides the lives of people all over the world. Mahatma Gandhi regarded it as the “Mother”, to whom the children (humanity) turned when in distress. Sri Swami Sivananda wants us to study daily at least one discourse of the scripture, so that its great lessons are ever fresh in our memory.
Each discourse has been preceded by a short summary giving the substance of that discourse in a nutshell.
We are extremely grateful to Sri Swami Chidananda, the World-President of the Divine Life Society, for his Foreword and assistance in the preparation of some of the summaries.Divine Life Society
The modern man in this present decade of the second half of the 20th century is greatly in need of an effective guide to light. He is groping. He sees only problems everywhere and no solutions are to be found anywhere. He does not know which way to turn, what course to adopt and how to move towards a better state of things. Therefore, his life is filled with restlessness, unhappiness and complication. The Bhagavad Gita contains words of wisdom and practical teachings that contain the answers to the above-mentioned condition of the present-day individual.
The Bhagavad Gita is a message addressed to each and every human individual to help him or her to solve the vexing problem of overcoming the present and progressing towards a bright future. This holy scripture is not just an “old scripture”, nor is it just a book of “religious teachings”, nor even a Hindu holy book. It transcends the bounds of any particular religion or race, and is actually divine wisdom addressed to mankind for all times, in order to help human beings face and solve the ever-present problems of birth and death, of pain, suffering, fear, bondage, love and hate. It enables man to liberate himself from all limiting factors and reach a state of perfect balance, inner stability and mental peace, complete freedom from grief, fear and anxiety. Within its eighteen chapters is revealed a human drama. This is the experience of everyone in this world, the drama of the ascent of man from a state of utter dejection, sorrow and total breakdown and hopelessness to a state of perfect understanding, clarity, renewed strength and triumph.
Each discourse holds for you an invaluable new lesson and imparts a new understanding of yourself in a marvellous way. The mystery of man, this world and God, is explained as perhaps nowhere else. The workings of your mind—the real problem to your welfare and happiness—how to overcome it, what the path to blessedness is, as also the path to perdition, the secret of self-mastery and the way to peace amidst your daily activities and duties—all these and more you will find in this great treasure. It is yours by which to enrich your life.
To the Western reader I would suggest that he carefully reads through the entire book once. Then he should commence it a second time. Upon the second reading he should adopt the method of selectivity, not in reading but in what he takes from it. Such things as seem to be particularly Hindu and therefore, perhaps, not acceptable to him as a person of another faith, he can just pass by without being perturbed. But everything else that is of a purely philosophical, psychological, ethical and psychical nature,—all these he can grasp and assimilate fully. He will be wonderfully enriched and supremely blessed. His life will become new from that moment. All clouds will vanish. Light will fill the heart and mind. I assure him of this. This is the Gita.
I commend this wonderful gift of God unto every man and woman, towards his or her supreme blessedness and highest welfare.Swami Chidananda
10th July, 1968 (Guru Purnima)
The Srimad Bhagavad Gita is a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, narrated in the Bhishma Parva of the Mahabharata. It comprises eighteen discourses of a total of 701 Sanskrit verses. A considerable volume of material has been compressed within these verses. On the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Sri Krishna, during the course of His most instructive and interesting talk with Arjuna, revealed profound, sublime and soul-stirring spiritual truths, and expounded the rare secrets of Yoga, Vedanta, Bhakti and Karma.
All the teachings of Lord Krishna were subsequently recorded as the Song Celestial or Srimad Bhagavad Gita by Bhagavan Vyasa for the benefit of humanity at large. The world is under a great debt of gratitude to Bhagavan Vyasa who presented this Song Celestial to humanity for the guidance of their daily conduct of life, spiritual upliftment and Self-realisation. Those who are self-controlled and who are endowed with faith can reap the full benefit of the Gita, which is the science of the Soul.
The Gita Jayanti (birthdate of the Gita) is celebrated throughout India by the admirers and lovers of this unique book on the 11th day (Ekadashi) of the bright half of the month of Margasirsha according to the Hindu almanac. It was the day on which the scripture was revealed to the world by Sanjaya.
In all the spiritual literature of the world there is no book so elevating and inspiring as the Gita. It expounds very lucidly the cardinal principles or the fundamentals of the Hindu religion and Hindu Dharma. It is the source of all wisdom. It is your great guide. It is your supreme teacher. It is an inexhaustible spiritual treasure. It is a fountain of bliss. It is an ocean of knowledge. It is full of divine splendour and grandeur.
The Gita is the cream of the Vedas. It is the essence of the soul-elevating Upanishads. It is a universal scripture applicable to people of all temperaments and for all times. It is a wonderful book with sublime thoughts and practical instructions on Yoga, devotion, Vedanta and action. It is a marvellous book, profound in thought and sublime in heights of vision. It brings peace and solace to souls that are afflicted by the three fires of mortal existence, namely, afflictions caused by one’s own body, those caused by beings around one, and those caused by the gods.
The Gita contains the divine nectar. It is the wish-fulfilling gem, tree and cow. You can milk anything from it. It is a book for eternity. It is not a catch-penny book, with life like that of a mushroom. It can be one’s constant companion of life. It is a vade-mecum for all. Peace, bliss, wisdom, Brahman, Nirvana, Param Padam and Gita are all synonymous terms.
The Gita is a boundless ocean of nectar. It is the immortal celestial fruit of the Upanishadic tree. In this unique book you will find an unbiased exposition of the philosophy of action, devotion and knowledge, together with a wonderfully woven synthesis of these three. The Gita is a rare and splendid flower that wafts its sweet aroma throughout the world.
If all the Upanishads should represent cows, Sri Krishna is their milker. Arjuna is the calf who first tasted that milk of wisdom of the Self, milked by the divine Cowherd for the benefit of all humanity. This milk is the Bhagavad Gita. It solves not only Arjuna’s problems and doubts, but also the world’s problems and those of every individual. Glory to Krishna, the friend of the cowherds of Gokula, the joy of Devaki! He who drinks the nectar of the Gita through purification of the heart and regular meditation, attains immortality, eternal bliss, everlasting peace and perennial joy. There is nothing more to be attained beyond this.
Just as the dark unfathomed depths of the ocean contain most precious pearls, so also the Bhagavad Gita contains spiritual gems of incalculable value. You will have to dive deep into its depths with a sincere attitude of reverence and faith. Only then will you be able to collect its spiritual pearls and comprehend its infinitely profound and subtle teachings.
The Bhagavad Gita is a unique book for all ages. It is one of the most authoritative books of the Hindu religion. It is the immortal song of the Soul, which bespeaks of the glory of life. The instructions given by Sri Krishna are for the whole world. It is a standard book on Yoga for all mankind. The language is as simple as could be. Even a man who has an elementary knowledge of Sanskrit can go through the book.
There are numerous commentaries on the Gita at the present time. A volume can be written on each verse. A busy man with an active temperament will be greatly benefited by the commentary of Sri Gangadhar Lokamanya Tilak, entitled Gita Rahasya. A man of devotional temperament will be attracted by Sri Sridhara’s commentary, and a man of reason by that of Sri Shankara.
The Gita is like an ocean. Sri Shankara, Sri Ramanuja and Sri Madhava dived into it and gave accounts of their interpretation and established their own philosophy. Anyone can do the same and bring out the most precious pearls of divine knowledge and give their own interpretation. Glory to the Gita! Glory to the Lord of the Gita!
The teachings of the Gita are broad, universal and sublime. They do not belong to any cult, sect, creed, age or country. They are meant for the people of the whole world. Based on the soul-elevating Upanishads—the ancient wisdom of seers and saints—the Gita prescribes methods which are within the reach of all. It has a message of solace, freedom, salvation, perfection and peace for all human beings.
This sacred scripture is like the great Manasarovar lake for monks, renunciates and thirsting aspirants to sport in. It is the ocean of bliss in which seekers of Truth swim with joy and ecstasy. If the philosopher’s stone touches a piece of iron even at one point, the whole of it is transformed into gold. Even so, if you live in the spirit of even one verse of the Gita, you will doubtless be transmuted into divinity. All your miseries will come to an end and you will attain the highest goal of life—immortality and eternal peace.
The study of the Gita alone is sufficient for daily Swadhyaya (scriptural study). You will find here a solution for all your doubts. The more you study it with devotion and faith, the more you will acquire deeper knowledge, penetrative insight and clear, right thinking.
The Bhagavad Gita is a gospel for the whole world. It is meant for the generality of mankind. It was given over five thousand years ago by Lord Krishna to Arjuna.
None but the Lord Himself can bring out such a marvellous and unprecedented book which gives peace to its readers, which helps and guides them in the attainment of supreme bliss, and which has survived up to the present time. This itself proves clearly that God exists, that He is an embodiment of knowledge, and that one can attain perfection or liberation only by realising God.
The world is one huge battlefield. The real Kurukshetra is within you. The battle of the Mahabharata is still raging within. Ignorance is Dhritarashtra; the individual soul is Arjuna; the indweller of your heart is Lord Krishna, the charioteer; the body is the chariot; the senses are the five horses; mind, egoism, mental impressions, senses, cravings, likes and dislikes, lust, jealousy, greed, pride and hypocrisy are your dire enemies.
Guide For Study
As the Gita contains subtle and profound teachings, you should study it under a qualified teacher, one who is established in the Absolute. Only when studied with great and intense faith, single-minded devotion and purity, will the truths contained therein be revealed unto you like a fruit on the palm of your hand. Good commentaries written by realised sages will also be of immense help to you.
Worldly-minded individuals, however intellectual they may be, cannot grasp the essential teachings of the Gita. They enter into unnecessary discussions and useless debates. They cavil and carp at the teachings. Such ignorant people say: “There is no intimate connection between the verses. They are thrown in a disorderly manner. There is a great deal of repetition.” If they study the book with reverence and faith under a qualified teacher all their doubts would vanish. They will realise that there is a close connection between the verses in all the chapters. Repetitions in the Gita and the Upanishads are useful repetitions. They are best calculated to create a deep and indelible impression in the mind of the aspirant.
Lord Krishna speaks from different levels of consciousness. In the Gita the word “Avyaktam” sometimes refers to primordial Nature and sometimes to the Absolute Para Brahman also. Therefore, the help of a teacher is necessary if you wish to know the right significance of the verses.
In the Kathopanishad the term “brick” is used to denote the gods. In the Hatha Yogic texts it is stated: “At the junction of the rivers Yamuna and Ganga there is a young virgin”. The esoteric meaning of this is that there is the Sushumna Nadi between the Ida and the Pingala. So, without the help of a Guru, you will not be able to understand the proper meaning of the verses of the Gita. You will be like the man who brought a horse to one who asked for saindava while taking food. The word saindava means salt as well as horse!
Harmony in the Gita
Man is a composite of three fundamental factors, namely, will, feeling and cognition. There are three kinds of temperament—the active, the emotional and the rational. Even so, there are three Yogas—Jnana Yoga for a person of enquiry and rational temperament, Bhakti Yoga for the emotional temperament, and Karma Yoga for a person of action. One Yoga is as efficacious as the other.
The Bhagavad Gita formulates the theories of the three paths without creating any conflict among them. It harmonises most wonderfully the philosophy of action, devotion and knowledge. All three must be harmoniously blended if you wish to attain perfection. You should have the head of Sri Shankara, the heart of Lord Buddha and the hand of King Janaka. The three horses of this body-chariot—action, emotion and intellect—should work in perfect harmony. Only then will it move smoothly and reach the destination safely and quickly. Only then can you rejoice in the Self, sing the song of Soham, be in tune with the Infinite, hear the soundless voice of the Soul and enjoy the sweet music of the eternal Self.
The central teaching of the Gita is the attainment of the final beatitude of life—perfection or eternal freedom. This may be achieved by doing one’s prescribed duties of life. Lord Krishna says to Arjuna: “Therefore, without attachment, constantly perform action which is duty, for, by performing action without attachment, man verily reaches the Supreme”.
The Gita is divided into three sections, illustrative of the three terms of the Mahavakya of the Sama Veda—“Tat Twam Asi—That Thou Art”. In accordance with this view, the first six discourses deal with the path of action or Karma Yoga, that is, the nature of “Thou”. It is called the Twam-pada. The next six discourses explain the path of devotion, the nature of “That”. This is called the Tat-pada. The concluding six discourses treat of the path of knowledge, the nature of the middle term “Art”. Hence, it is called the Asi-pada, which establishes the identity of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul.
The eighteen discourses are not woven in a discordant manner. Each one is intimately or vitally connected with its precedent.
Arjuna became very despondent. Lord Krishna’s opening remarks in the second discourse, which bespeak of the immortality of the soul, open his eyes and give him strength and courage. Arjuna then learns the technique of Karma Yoga and renunciation of the fruits of actions. He learns the methods of controlling the senses and the mind and practising concentration and meditation. This is followed by a description of the various manifestations of the Lord in order to prepare him for the vision of the Cosmic Form. Arjuna experiences the magnificent Cosmic Vision and understands the glorious nature of a liberated being. He is then given knowledge of the Field and the Knower of the Field, the three Gunas and the Purushottama. His knowledge is completed by an explanation of the divine attributes, the three kinds of faith and the essence of the Yoga of renunciation.
Just as a student is coached in a university, Arjuna is coached by Krishna for the attainment of knowledge of the Self in the spiritual university. Arjuna had various kinds of doubts; Lord Krishna cleared them one by one. He pushed Arjuna up the ladder of Yoga from one rung to the next. Eventually, Arjuna placed his foot on the highest rung, attained the supreme knowledge of the Self and exclaimed in joy: “O my Lord! my delusion has been destroyed. I have attained knowledge through Thy Grace. I am firm. All my doubts have now vanished in toto. I will act according to Thy word”.
You can become a liberated sage by annihilating the ego and the currents of likes and dislikes; by annihilating desires and cravings and destroying their residual potencies. Thus, you can rest in your true essential nature as Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute and still be active in the affairs of the world. Now you will not be bound by your actions since the idea of doership has been destroyed by the attainment of knowledge of the Self. This is the keynote of the Gita.
The Two Ways
The seers of the Upanishads emphatically declare that the real man is the all-pervading, immortal Soul which is the substratum of this body, mind and world, which is behind the five sheaths, namely, the food, vital, mental, intellectual and bliss sheaths.
The goal of life is to directly cognise or realise this self-luminous Self which is hidden in this body as fire is hidden in wood or as butter in milk. This Self is the inner ruler, the unseen governor or hidden proprietor of this house, the body.
Real religion is the attainment of this transcendental, supreme, undying, undecaying Essence through constant and intense meditation. Real life is life in the eternal Soul. True life is identification with this Supreme Soul, which exists in the past, present and future, which has neither a beginning, middle nor end, which has neither parts nor limbs, which is neither subtle nor gross.
The sages of ancient times attained this mysterious and most marvellous state through the eye of intuition or the divine third eye. They then explained the things of this world in the light of their intuitive knowledge of the Self. This is the direct method of Self-realisation.
You can ascend the summit of the hill of knowledge through science, art, Nature, music, etc. This is the indirect method. From the effect you go to the cause and ultimately reach the causeless Cause or Para Brahman, the Truth which is transcendental. Our Western scientists will grope in utter darkness if their purpose is only to invent some things for our physical convenience. The goal of science is to discover the one ultimate Truth which is the substratum of the atoms, molecules, electrons, energy, motion and all physical and mental phenomena and laws of Nature by means of enquiry, observation, analysis, investigation and study of these laws in operation. A Vedantin is the real scientist. Only his mode of approach to the Truth is different.
The scientist who in the past proclaimed that there was nothing beyond this world now proclaims: “The more I know of phenomena, the more I am puzzled. Intellect is finite and cold. Behind these changing phenomena there is the unchanging noumenon. Behind the dynamic rotating electrons, there is the static, motionless something, or something beyond the intellect and the world”.
Reconciliation of the Paths
In the Vishnu Purana, Bhagavan Vishnu is highly eulogised and a secondary place is given to Lord Shiva. In the Shiva Purana, Lord Shiva is immensely praised whilst Lord Vishnu is secondary. In the Devi Bhagavatam, the Divine Mother is given prominence above Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. All this is done in order to create in the aspirant intense and unswerving faith in his favourite Deity. All Deities are one; they are different aspects of the Lord. It is simply absurd to believe that Shiva is inferior to Vishnu, or vice versa.
In the same manner, in one place in the Gita, Lord Krishna praises Karma Yoga: “The Yoga of action is superior to the renunciation of action”—V.2. In another place He praises Raja Yoga: “The Yogi is thought to be superior to the ascetics and even superior to men of knowledge; he is also superior to men of action. Therefore, be thou a Yogi, O Arjuna!”—VI.46. In yet another place Lord Krishna praises the path of Bhakti Yoga: “The highest Purusha, O Arjuna, is attainable by unswerving devotion to Him alone within whom all beings dwell and by whom all this is pervaded!”—VIII.22. In one place He praises Jnana Yoga: “Noble indeed are all these; but I deem the wise man as My very Self; for, steadfast in mind, he is established in Me alone as the supreme goal”—VII.18.
A beginner is confused when he comes across these seemingly contradictory verses. But, if you think deeply, there is no room for any confusion. Krishna praises each Yoga in order to create interest in the aspirant in his particular path. The Gita is a book for the people of the world at large. It was not meant for Arjuna alone. Each Yoga is as efficacious as the other.
Essence of the Gita
The Gita again and again emphasises that one should cultivate an attitude of non-attachment or detachment. It urges repeatedly that an individual should live in the world like water on a lotus leaf. “He who does actions, offering them to Brahman and abandoning attachment, is not tainted by sin as a lotus leaf by water”—V.10.
Attachment is due to infatuation. It is the offspring of the quality of Rajas. Detachment is born of Sattwa. The former is a demoniacal attribute, the latter a divine one. Attachment is born of ignorance, selfishness and passion and brings with it death; detachment is wisdom and brings with it freedom. The practice of detachment is a rigorous discipline. You may stumble like a baby who is just learning to walk, but you will have to rise up again with a cheerful heart. Failures are not stumbling-blocks but steppingstones to success.
Try to dwell always in your own Self. Abide in your centre. Think of the Self constantly. Then all attachments will die automatically. Attachment to the Lord is a potent antidote to annihilate all worldly attachments. He who has no attachments can really love others, for his love is pure and divine. “Therefore, without attachment do thou always perform action which should be done; for, by performing action without attachment man reaches the Supreme”—III.19.
Some people study the Gita in order to find loopholes and criticise the teachings contained in it. The teachings of the Gita can only be understood if you approach it with a reverential attitude of mind and with intense faith.
Recently someone wrote a criticism in the newspaper: “The Gita is not a sacred book at all. It teaches violence. Lord Krishna asked Arjuna to kill even his dear relations and preceptors”. It is clear that this critic obviously has no real knowledge or understanding of the Gita. He is like Virochana who received spiritual instructions from Prajapati and took the body as being the Self on account of his perverted intellect. He is obviously a follower of the philosophy of the flesh. He cannot comprehend the depths of the Gita philosophy as his mind is callous and impervious to the reception of its truths. He has read the Gita not to gain spiritual knowledge but to attack it.
The answer to his criticism lies in a proper understanding of the following verses: “He who takes the Self to be the slayer and he who thinks He is slain, neither of them knows. He slays not nor is He slain”—II.19; “Therefore, stand up and obtain fame. Conquer the enemies and enjoy the unrivalled kingdom. Verily by Me have they been already slain; be thou a mere instrument, O Arjuna!”—XI.33; “He who is free from the egoistic notion, whose intellect is untainted (by good or evil), though he slays these people, he slayeth not, nor is he bound (by the action)”—XVIII.17.
Just as coloured dye stands out more clearly only when the original material is pure white, so also the instructions of a sage penetrate and settle down only in the hearts of aspirants whose minds are calm, who have no desire for enjoyments and whose impurities have been destroyed. For this reason an aspirant is expected to possess the qualifications of keen discrimination, dispassion, control of the mind and senses, and aversion to worldly attractions, before he can practise the threefold Sadhana of hearing the scriptures, reflecting upon them, and meditating upon their significance. Discipline and purification of the mind and the senses are the prerequisites for aspirants on the path of God-realisation.
Even when the nature of God is explained, those who have not been purged of their faults and impurities would either disbelieve or misbelieve it, as was the case with Indra and Virochana. Therefore, knowledge as inculcated arises only in him who has purified himself by austerity, performed either in this or in a previous birth.
The Upanishads declare: “To that high-souled man whose devotion to his preceptor is as great as that to the Lord, the secrets explained here become illumined”.
Some people catch fish in the Ganges river to satisfy their palate. Then they quote the Gita in support of their evil actions: “Weapons cut It not, fire burns It not, water wets It not, wind dries It not”—II.23. Wonderful philosophy indeed! Devils can also quote scriptures. These people are the followers of the Virochana school. They are evil-doing, deluded and the vilest of men. They cannot hope to understand the teachings of the Gita as their wisdom has been destroyed by illusion and they have embraced the nature of demons. May the Lord grant them a subtle and pure intellect, inner spiritual strength and right understanding to comprehend the teachings of the Gita in their proper light and live in their spirit!
Some ignorant people say: “Lord Krishna was not God. He was not an Avatara or Incarnation. He was a passionate cowherd who lustfully played with the Gopis”.
What was the age of Lord Krishna at that time? Was He not a boy of seven? Could there have been a tinge of passion in Him? Who can understand the secret of the Rasa Lila and Madhurya Bhava—the culmination of the highest state of devotion or total surrender to the Lord? It is only Narada, Sukadeva, Chaitanya, Mira, Ramananda and the Gopis who could understand the secret of the Rasa Lila. The Gopis only are qualified for this divine sport.
Did He not play miracles when He was a boy? Did He not show that He was the Avatara of Lord Hari? Did He not show His Cosmic Form to His mother when He was only a baby? Did He not subdue the serpent, Kaliya, by standing on its hood? Did He not multiply Himself as countless Krishnas for the satisfaction of the Gopis? Who were the Gopis? Were they not God-intoxicated beings who saw Krishna alone everywhere, even in themselves? The sound of the flute would throw them in a state of ecstasy or holy communion. They were above body-consciousness.
Just listen to the fate of such people who cavil and carp at the Lord: “The foolish think of Me, the Unmanifest, as having manifestation, knowing not My higher, immutable and most excellent form”—VII.24; “Fools disregard Me, clad in human form, not knowing My higher Being as the great Lord of all beings”; “Empty of hopes, of vain actions, of vain knowledge and senseless, they verily are possessed of the deceitful nature of demons and undivine beings”—IX.11-12; “These cruel haters—the worst among men in the world—I hurl these evil-doers into the womb of demons only”; “Entering into demoniacal wombs and deluded birth after birth, not attaining Me, they thus fall, O Arjuna, into a condition lower than that”-XVI.19-20.
Some thoughtless people begin to entertain a doubt and say: “How could the Gita have been taught to Arjuna on the battlefield in such a short time? It could not.” This is wrong. It was all a revelation to Arjuna. The Lord gave Arjuna the divine eye of intuition. He can do anything. His Grace can make the dumb man eloquent and the cripple a climber of mountains.
Solutions to Conflicting Verses
A critic says: “In the Gita, III.33, it is said, ‘Even a wise man acts in accordance with his own nature; beings follow their nature; what can restraint do?’ What then is the use of our attempt at controlling the senses and the mind when our nature is so powerful and overwhelming? How can our Sadhana overcome it?”
In the very next verse, Lord Krishna distinctly advises us to control likes and dislikes. Our nature can be subdued by Sadhana. When studying the Gita you should not confine the meaning to one verse exclusively, but see its connection with the previous and succeeding verses of the same discourse as well as of all the other discourses. You have to frequently make cross references before you get the right answer.
Those who disregard the Lord’s commandment: “Renouncing all actions in Me, with the mind centred in the Self free from hope and egoism and from mental fever, do thou fight”, and who sit quiet, renouncing their own duty, will not derive any benefit by such renunciation. The power of Maya is invincible to even wise men; then how much more difficult it would be for worldly men to conquer it! For them, renunciation of work without attainment of knowledge is undesirable. They will be caught in the clutches of Maya. Of what avail is their effort to control the senses, or what can restraint do in their case? These worldly men cannot escape the clutches of likes and dislikes.
Even the residual good tendencies in the wise men work in accordance with the qualities of their nature, namely, Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas. The wise too are affected by the three Gunas when they are not actually in the state of Samadhi. But they have no attachment to the body and other objects of enjoyment and, therefore, are not affected mentally. They are ever serene, self-contented and self-satisfied. They do not long for objects not attained nor weep over things lost.
Another objector says: “In the Gita, XVIII.61, Lord Krishna says, ‘The Lord dwells in the hearts of all beings, O Arjuna, causing all beings, by His illusive power, to revolve as if mounted on a machine!’ Is man then a perfect slave? Is he like a straw tossed about here and there? Has he not any free will to act?”
Krishna tries His best to persuade Arjuna to do his duty. He wants to extract work from him. So He speaks of Arjuna’s utter helplessness. In VI.5, Krishna preaches about right exertion: “Let a man lift himself by his own Self alone, let him not lower himself; for this self is the friend of oneself and this self alone is the enemy of oneself”.
Being under the sway of one’s nature, the natural duties can never be forsaken. One’s duty should in no case be ignored. The Lord, the inner ruler, is the director of the individual soul. As long as one is not free from ignorance, one is bound to one’s duty. Arjuna’s duty as a Kshatriya was to fight; and Lord Krishna wanted him to do just that. The Lord has also said that “one’s own duty is good”.
Yet another critic says: “In XV.7, the Lord says: ‘An eternal portion of Myself, having become a living soul in the world of life, draws to itself the five senses with the mind for the sixth, abiding in Nature’. It is quite clear that the individual soul is a part of Brahman, the Absolute. How can we say that it is identical with Brahman? The doctrine of Advaita is therefore wrong”.
In VII.17, the Lord says: “Of them, the wise, ever steadfast and devoted to the One, excels; for I am exceedingly dear to the wise and he is dear to Me”. Here He speaks of identity. The doctrine of non-dualism is quite correct. Non-dualism is the highest realisation. The Lord gives instructions according to the aspirant’s qualification. Advaita philosophy can be grasped only by a microscopic few. So, He speaks of other philosophical doctrines in different places to suit different kinds of aspirants. From the absolute point of view there is neither the individual soul nor Self-realisation; Brahman alone exists. Dualism, qualified monism and pure monism are different rungs in the ladder of realisation. The truth is that the individual soul and Brahman are one in essence. All these schools eventually reach the Advaitic goal of oneness. Understand things in their proper light.
India is held in high esteem by the Westerners on account of the Gita. Gandhiji once visited one of the biggest libraries in London and asked the librarian which book was issued most frequently. The librarian said that it was the Gita. It is very popular throughout the world. All aspirants should try to get the whole eighteen discourses by heart. This can be achieved through daily study over a period of about one year at a rate of two verses a day.
Study of the Gita must be made compulsory in all schools and colleges of India; nay, of the whole world. It must become a textbook for students of schools and colleges. It should find a very important place in every scheme of education. Only that system of education wherein moral and spiritual training are imparted along with secular knowledge can be deemed sound, practical, sensible and perfect.
Hold the magnificent torch of faith. Float high the unique banner of peace. Wear the magnificent shield of dispassion. Put on the marvellous coat of arms of discrimination. Sing the immortal song of Soham, Shivoham, Radheshyam or Sitaram. March boldly with the band of Pranava. Blow the conch of courage. Kill the enemies of ignorance and egoism and enter the illimitable kingdom of God.
My silent adorations to Lord Ganesh, Lord Subramanya, Lord Rama, Sita Devi, Sri Saraswathi, Sri Shankara, Bhagavan Vyasa, Sri Padmapadacharya, Sri Hastamalakacharya, Sri Totakacharya, Sri Sureshvaracharya, Sri Jnana Dev, Sri Swami Visvananda, Sri Swami Vishnudevananda, and all the Brahma Vidya Gurus and commentators on the Gita, through whose Grace and blessings alone I was able to write this commentary! May their blessings be upon you all!
Glory, glory to the Gita! Glory to Lord Krishna, who placed the Gita before men of this world to attain liberation! May His blessings be upon you all! May the Gita be your centre, ideal and goal!
Blessed is the man who studies the Gita daily! Twice blessed is he who lives in the spirit of the Gita! Thrice blessed is he who has realised the knowledge of the Gita or attained Self-knowledge! Om Tat Sat! Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti!Swami Sivananda
4th July, 1942
Dhritarashtra and Pandu were brothers. Dhritarashtra married Gandhari, and Pandu was married to Kunti and Madri. King Pandu was cursed for a sin while hunting, due to which he was not permitted to unite with his wife. Kunti got a boon through her sincere service of a wise sage in her younger age, and she begot three children, namely, Yudhisthira, Bhima and Arjuna from Yama, Vayu and Indra respectively. Madri had twins, Nakula and Sahadeva, through the celestial physicians called Asvini-Devatas. Dhritarashtra had a hundred and one children by his wife Gandhari. Pandu passed away and his sons, the Pandavas, were all brought up by Dhritarashtra along with his sons known as Kauravas. The Pandavas and Kauravas grew up together, but due to the braveness and intelligence of the former, the Kauravas were unable to tolerate them. Hence the Pandavas decided to live separately, sharing half of their kingdom.
The Pandavas’ pomp, wealth and glory displayed during the Rajasuya Yajna aroused deep jealousy and greed in the mind of Duryodhana, the chief of the Kauravas, who, with the cunning advice of his uncle, Sakuni, invited Yudhisthira to a game of dice and fraudulently defeated him, whereby all his wealth and possessions, including Draupadi, were lost. Finally it was settled that the Pandavas, including Draupadi, should repair to the forest for twelve years in exile, after which they had to live incognito for another year, untraced by the Kauravas. During this period the kingdom was to be ruled by the wicked Duryodhana.
Having successfully completed these thirteen years of exile, facing many obstacles and dangers instigated by the Kauravas, the Pandavas, as per the terms of the agreement, approached the Kauravas for their share of the kingdom. Duryodhana, however, flatly refused to part with as much land as could be covered by the point of a needle. According to the advice of Mother Kunti and with the inspiration of Lord Krishna, the Pandavas decided upon war and tried to establish their rightful claim on the kingdom by overcoming the Kauravas.
Duryodhana and Arjuna, from the side of the Kauravas and Pandavas respectively, were sent to Dwaraka to seek the help of the Yadava hero, Lord Krishna, in the battle. They both found Krishna resting on a couch in His palace. Duryodhana went in and occupied a seat at the head of the couch while Arjuna stood near the feet of the Lord. The moment Sri Krishna opened His eyes, He naturally saw Arjuna first, and then Duryodhana sitting on a chair. After enquiry of their welfare and the purpose of their visit, Sri Krishna, according to the prevailing custom, gave the first choice to Arjuna, because of his age, and also because of His sight of Arjuna first. Krishna asked Arjuna to fulfil his desire by selecting Him unarmed or His powerful army called Narayani Sena. Arjuna, who was a devotee of Sri Krishna, expressed his desire to have the Lord with him, neglecting the powerful Narayani Sena, even though Krishna warned that He would remain a witness, bound by the vow of not participating in battle and not taking up arms. Duryodhana, with great delight, thinking that Arjuna was foolish, expressed his wish for the powerful army to help his side in the battle.
When Krishna asked Arjuna why he chose Him when He was not for taking up arms, Arjuna said, “O Lord! You have the power to destroy all the forces by a mere sight. Why then should I prefer that worthless army? I have for a long time been cherishing a desire in my heart that you should act as my charioteer. Kindly fulfil my desire in this war.”
The Lord, who is ever the most devoted lover of His devotees, accepted his request with pleasure; and thus Krishna became the charioteer of Arjuna in the battle of the Mahabharata.
After the return of Duryodhana and Arjuna from Dwaraka, Lord Krishna Himself went once to Hastinapura as the emissary of the Pandavas and tried to prevent the war. But then, under the guidance of Sakuni, the egoistic Duryodhana refused to agree to the peace mission and tried to imprison Lord Krishna, at which Krishna showed His Supreme Form (Viswarupa). Even the blind Dhritarashtra saw it by the Lord’s Grace. King Dhritarashtra, due to his attachment to his sons, failed to control them, and the Kaurava chief, Duryodhana, with vain hope, decided to meet the powerful Pandavas in war.
When both sides were prepared to commence the battle, the sage Veda Vyasa approached blind Dhritarashtra and said, “If you wish to see this terrible carnage with your own eyes I can give you the gift of vision.” The Kaurava king replied, “O Chief of the Brahmarishis! I have no desire to see with my own eyes this slaughter of my family, but I should like to hear all the details of the battle.”
Then the sage conferred the gift of divine vision on Sanjaya, the trusty counsellor of the king, and told the king, “Sanjaya will describe to you all the incidents of the war. Whatever happens in the course of the war, he will directly see, hear or otherwise come to know. Whether an incident takes place before his eyes or behind his back, during the day or during the night, privately or in public, and whether it is reduced to actual action or appears only in thought, it will not remain hidden from his view. He will come to know everything, exactly as it happens. No weapon will touch his body nor will he feel tired.”
After the ten days of continued war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, when the great warrior Bhishma was thrown down from his chariot by Arjuna, Sanjaya announces the news to Dhritarashtra. In agony the king asks Sanjaya to narrate the full details of the previous ten days war, from the very beginning, in all detail as it happened. Here commences the Bhagavad Gita.
Prayer to Vyasa
Yena twayaa bhaaratatailapoornah
prajwaalito jnaanamayah pradeepah.
Salutations unto thee, O Vyasa, of broad intellect and with eyes large like the petals of a full-blown lotus, by whom the lamp of divine knowledge, filled with the oil of the Mahabharata, has been lighted!
Prayer to the Guru
Guruh saakshaat param brahma tasmai shree gurave namah.
Guru is the creator (Brahma); Guru is the preserver (Vishnu); Guru is the destroyer (Maheshvara); Guru is verily the Supreme Absolute. To that Guru we prostrate.Dhyaanamoolam gurormoortih poojaamoolam guroh padam;
Mantramoolam gurorvaakyam mokshamoolam guroh kripaa.
The Guru’s form is the root of meditation; the Guru’s feet are the root of worship; the Guru’s word is the root of Mantra; the Guru’s Grace is the root of liberation.
Prayer to Lord Krishna
Nandagopakumaaraaya govindaaya namo namah.
I bow again and again to Lord Krishna, son of Vasudeva, the delighter of Devaki, the darling of Nandagopa, the protector of cows.
O Krishna! Thou art my sweet companion now. Thou hast a soft corner for me in Thy heart. Teach me now the mysteries of Thy divine play and the secrets of Vedanta. Thou sayest in the Gita: “I am the author of Vedanta and the knower of the Vedas”. Thou art my best teacher. Explain to me the intricate details of Vedanta. Give me easy lessons.
Kindly explain; why did Sukadev, a Brahma Jnani who was always absorbed in Brahman, teach the Bhagavata to King Parikshit? What are the differences in the experiences of a Bhakta who enjoys union with God, of a Yogi who is established in the highest Superconscious State, and of a Jnani firmly established in the state of oneness or Brahman? What is the real difference between liberation while living and disembodied liberation, between the transcendent state and the state beyond it, between the perishable Person, the imperishable Person and the Supreme Person?
Let me be frank with Thee, O Krishna, because Thou art the indweller of my heart, the witness of my mind, and the Lord of my life-breath! I cannot hide anything from Thee, because Thou directly witnesseth all the thoughts that emanate from my mind. I have no fear of Thee. Thou art my friend now. Treat me like Arjuna. I shall sing and dance. You can play on the flute. Let us eat sugar-candy and butter together. Let us sing. Teach me the Gita. Let me hear it directly from Thy lips once more.
O Thou invisible One! O adorable and Supreme One! Thou penetratest and permeatest this vast universe from the unlimited space down to the tiny blade of grass at my feet. Thou art the basis of all names and forms. Thou art the apple of my eye, the divine love of my heart, the life of my life, the very soul of my soul, the illuminator of my intellect and senses, the sweet mystic music of my heart, and the substance of my physical, mental and causal bodies.
I recognise Thee alone as the mighty ruler of this universe and the inner controller of my three bodies. I prostrate again and again before Thee, my Lord. Thou art my sole refuge. I trust Thee alone, O ocean of mercy and love! Elevate, enlighten, guide and protect me. Remove the obstacles on my spiritual path. Remove the veil of ignorance.
O Thou supreme world-teacher! I cannot bear any longer, even for a second, the miseries of this physical body, this life and this worldly existence. Meet me quickly, O Prabhu! I am pining, I am melting. Listen, listen, listen to my fervent, innermost prayer. Do not be cruel, my Lord. Thou art the friend of the afflicted. Thou art one who raises the downtrodden. Thou art the purifier of the fallen.
O magnificent Lord of love and compassion! O fountain-head of bliss and knowledge! Thou art the eye of our eye, the ear of our ear, the breath of our breath, the mind of our mind, the soul of our soul. Thou art the unseen seer, the unthought thinker, the unheard hearer, the unknown knower. Pray, deliver us from temptation. Give us light, knowledge and purity.
O Lord of my breath! O all-pervading Lord of the universe, accept my humble prayer! Guide me. Lift me from the mire of worldliness. Enlighten me. Protect me. Thee alone I adore; Thee alone I worship; on Thee alone I meditate in Thee alone I take sole refuge.
GLORY OF THE GITA
(To be read at the end of the day’s Gita study)
Sri Ganeshaaya Namah! Gopaalakrishnaaya Namah!
The Earth said:
1. O Bhagavan, the Supreme Lord! How can unflinching devotion arise in him who is immersed in his Prarabdha Karmas (worldly life), O Lord?
Lord Vishnu said:
2. Though engaged in the performance of worldly duties, one who is regular in the study of the Gita becomes free. He is the happy man in this world. He is not bound by Karma.
3. Just as the water stains not the lotus leaf, even so sins do not taint him who is regular in the recitation of the Gita.
4. All the sacred centres of pilgrimage, like Prayag and other places, dwell in that place where the Gita is kept, and where the Gita is read.
5. All the gods, sages, Yogins, divine serpents, Gopalas, Gopikas (friends and devotees of Lord Krishna), Narada, Uddhava and others (dwell here).
6. Help comes quickly where the Gita is recited and, O Earth, I ever dwell where it is read, heard, taught and contemplated upon!
7. I take refuge in the Gita, and the Gita is My best abode. I protect the three worlds with the knowledge of the Gita.
8. The Gita is My highest science, which is doubtless of the form of Brahman, the Eternal, the Ardhamatra (of the Pranava Om), the ineffable splendour of the Self.
9. It was spoken by the blessed Lord Krishna, the all-knowing, through His own mouth, to Arjuna. It contains the essence of the Vedas—the knowledge of the Reality. It is full of supreme bliss.
COMMENTARY: The Gita contains the cream of the Vedas and Upanishads. Hence it is a universal scripture suited for people of all temperaments and for all ages.
10. He who recites the eighteen chapters of the Bhagavad Gita daily, with a pure and unshaken mind, attains perfection in knowledge, and reaches the highest state or supreme goal.
11. If a complete reading is not possible, even if only half is read, he attains the benefit of giving a cow as a gift. There is no doubt about this.
12. He who recites one-third part of it achieves the merit of a bath in the sacred river Ganges; and who recites one-sixth of it attains the merit of performing a Soma sacrifice (a kind of ritual).
13. That person who reads one discourse with supreme faith and devotion attains to the world of Rudra and, having become a Gana (an attendant of Lord Shiva), lives there for many years.
14. If one reads a discourse or even a part of a verse daily he, O Earth, retains a human body till the end of a Manvantara (71 Mahayugas or 308,448,000 years).
15-16. He who repeats ten, seven, five, four, three, two verses or even one or half of it, attains the region of the moon and lives there for 10,000 years. Accustomed to the daily study of the Gita, a dying man comes back to life again as a human being.
17. By repeated study of the Gita, he attains liberation. Uttering the word Gita at the time of death, a person attains liberation.
18. Though full of sins, one who is ever intent on hearing the meaning of the Gita, goes to the kingdom of God and rejoices with Lord Vishnu.
19. He who meditates on the meaning of the Gita, having performed many virtuous actions, attains the supreme goal after death. Such an individual should be considered a true Jivanmukta.
COMMENTARY: A Jivanmukta is one who has attained liberation while living.
20. In this world, taking refuge in the Gita, many kings like Janaka and others reached the highest state or goal, purified of all sins.
21. He who fails to read this “Glory of the Gita” after having read the Gita, loses the benefit thereby, and the effort alone remains.
COMMENTARY: This is to test and confirm the faith of the reader in the Bhagavad Gita, which is not a mere philosophical book but the word of God and should therefore be studied with great faith and devotion. The Gita Mahatmya generates this devotion in one’s heart.
22. One who studies the Gita, together with this “Glory of the Gita”, attains the fruits mentioned above, and reaches the state which is otherwise very difficult to be attained.
23. This greatness or “Glory of the Gita”, which is eternal, as narrated by me, should be read at the end of the study of the Gita, and the fruits mentioned therein will be obtained.
Thus ends the “Glory of the Gita” contained in the Varaha Purana.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti!
MEDITATION ON THE GITA
1. Om. O Bhagavad Gita, with which Partha was illumined by Lord Narayana Himself, and which was composed within the Mahabharata by the ancient sage, Vyasa, O Divine Mother, the destroyer of rebirth, the showerer of the nectar of Advaita, and consisting of eighteen discourses—upon Thee, O Gita, O affectionate Mother, I meditate!
2. Salutations unto thee, O Vyasa, of broad intellect and with eyes like the petals of a full-blown lotus, by whom the lamp of knowledge, filled with the oil of the Mahabharata, has been lighted!
3. Salutations to Lord Krishna, the Parijata or the Kalpataru or the bestower of all desires for those who take refuge in Him, the holder of the whip in one hand, the holder of the symbol of divine knowledge and the milker of the divine nectar of the Bhagavad Gita!
4. All the Upanishads are the cows; the milker is Krishna; the cowherd boy, Partha (Arjuna), is the calf; men of purified intellect are the drinkers; the milk is the great nectar of the Gita.
5. I salute Sri Krishna, the world-teacher, son of Vasudeva, the destroyer of Kamsa and Chanura, the supreme bliss of Devaki!
6. With Kesava as the helmsman, verily was crossed by the Pandavas the battle-river, whose banks were Bhishma and Drona, whose water was Jayadratha, whose blue lotus was the king of Gandhara, whose crocodile was Salya, whose current was Kripa, whose billow was Karna, whose terrible alligators were Vikarna and Asvatthama, whose whirlpool was Duryodhana.
7. May this lotus of the Mahabharata, born in the lake of the words of Vyasa, sweet with the fragrance of the meaning of the Gita, with many stories as its stamens, fully opened by the discourses of Hari, the destroyer of the sins of Kali, and drunk joyously by the bees of good men in the world, become day by day the bestower of good to us!
8. I salute that Madhava, the source of supreme bliss, whose Grace makes the dumb eloquent and the cripple cross mountains!
9. Salutations to that God whom Brahma, Indra, Varuna, Rudra and the Maruts praise with divine hymns, of whom the Sama-chanters sing by the Vedas and their Angas (in the Pada and Krama methods), and by the Upanishads; whom the Yogis see with their minds absorbed in Him through meditation, and whose ends the hosts of Devas and Asuras know not!
|Copyright @ 2003-2007 The Yoga-Age.com All rights reserved.|