THE BHAGAVAD GITA — A History of this Yoga Text
The Bhagavad-Gita is one of the most important texts of the Epic age of eastern Philosophy. It was written around 500 BCE and is incorporated within the grand epic of Indian Philosophy — ‘THE MAHABHARATA' -. This book is a magnificent treasure of mythology, religion, ethics, customs and information about clans, kings, and sages throughout the ages.
This text acquired another title called “The Fifth Veda" — or “Krishna Veda". It has a huge number of verse or stanzas — approximately 100,000.
The story of The Bhagavad-Gita —often known as the jewel of The Mahabharata. This story has only 700 verse or stanza. I want to highlight these in this blog. Here goes...
Bhagavad-Gita — translates as “THE LORDS SONG" it is the earliest document of the religious tradition of Vaishnavism - which centres on the worship of the Divine in the form of Vishnu, but specifically as the incarnation of Krishna. This tradition is rooted in the Vedic Age around sixth century BC. It flourished in the Indian region of Mahurat and from here spread to many other parts of the Indian peninsula.
Today Vaishnavism is one of the five great religious traditions of India, along with Shaivism -focusing Shiva, Shaktism — focusing on Shakti, the female power of the Divine. Ganapatyas - focusing on the elephant-headed deity Ganesha or Ganapati. The ﬁfth being the Sauras - who focus on the solar deity Surya.
The Gita has enjoyed enormous popularity among Hindus for countless generations. The popularity is epitomized in the words of Mahatma Ghandi, who said “I find solace in the Bhagavad-Gita that I miss even in the Sermon on the Mount, I owe it all to the teachings of the Bhagavad - Gita". Mahatma Gandhi also reverently called it "My Mother". The Gita has been available in English translation since 1785. It has been a huge inspiration to many well-known westerners and philosophers as well as writers and esotericists. The German Sanskrit's and Yoga researcher J.W Hauer summed up the sentiment of many personalities when he wrote:
“The Gita gives us not only profound insights that are for all times and for all religious life. Here spirit is at work and belongs to our spirit.”
Its importance to the student of yoga is obvious, because it is regarded as the first full-fledged Yoga scripture. The Gita speaks of itself as a yoga-shastra, or yogic teaching that restates ancient truths. The Gita has a central message of Lord Krishna's Song. This is the balancing of conventional religious and ethical activity and otherworldly aesthetic goals. The general gist of Krishna's activist teaching is given in the following stanza:
“Steadfast in Yoga perform actions, abandoning attachment and remaining the same success and failure, Dhanamjaya. Yoga is called “evenness".
The Gita is 18 chapters of the finest spiritual teaching. It celebrates the experience of Life - with God as the central core of all actions in everyday life. The Gita extends to all cultures and all religions and is not just for the religious or spiritually minded. It encourages God to be found in all that we do and all that we are. This brings awareness on how to live fully in the present moment and with a sense of Joy. It looks at life's basic dilemmas and in the search for peace of mind we must face our inner fears and weaknesses with courage, grace and compassion. At the same time, we must be active in our ﬁght against all of life's difﬁculties' and aspire to spiritual growth. The story is arranged as a conversation between God who is played as Krishna and the Soul is the form of Arjuna.
This Supreme God - Krishna, guides Arjuna, offering spiritual guidance, wisdom and knowledge of a world where God and the Soul sit side by side.
A more dramatic setting for spiritual teaching could not be imagined. The story begins with a battle between two armies. The Kurus and Pandavas who prepare to face each other in a battle that will lead to destruction. The great warrior Arjuna is one of the Pandava princes, and he refuses to fight because he has seen teachers and friends among the ranks of the enemies. Krishna, the Divine incarnation serving as his charioteer, encourages him to do his duty as a warrior in this just war, whose purpose is to re-establish a lawful Kingdom and moral order. This Kingdom is the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of the soul. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Arjuna becomes the soul of man and Krishna the charioteer of the soul. Krishna gives spiritual enlightment to the warrior Arjuna throughout the 18 chapters - who eventually realises that the true meaning is the battle for his own soul.
Each chapter has a specific teaching and important message to portray -
CHAPTER 1 - ARJUNA'S DILEMMA
Then Arjuna saw in both armies’ fathers, grandfathers, sons, grandsons; fathers of wife’s, uncles, masters; brothers, companions and friends. When Arjuna thus saw his kinsmen face to face in both lines of battle, he was overcome by grief and despair and thus he spoke with a sinking heart.
This chapter is teaching of the right path, choices & moral dilemmas - Arjuna had not wanted this war. This outlines that life is like this- we may not seek conflict, but often it seeks us. Arjuna has made a choice and Krishna has become the chariot to lead him wherever he must go. This opening chapter is of issues of social order, justice and defence. Violence or non-violence. When facing tragedy, heart and head tell different stories of emotion and confusion.
Look out for Chapter 2, coming soon....