In short the Srimad Bhagavad Gita is known as Gita. It is a part of the great epic called the Mahabharata literally meaning 'the great India'. This book has ruled over the minds of Indian thinkers and statesmen for many, many centuries. For Indian people it involves not only one hour, but their whole life. It is a philosophy which the Indian mind understands very quickly.
The Gita begins in a dramatic way. About 5000 years ago there lived two fraternities belonging to the same family, known as the 'Five Brothers' and the 'Hundred Brothers'. The Hundred Brothers, who were the ruling authorities, endeavoured to gain complete control of the kingdom by refusing to allow the Five Brothers their rightful share. The problem became such a vital one that ultimately both parties prepared for a great war to decide the issue. Finally the day came when they met each other on the battle field supported by their great armies.
The commander in chief of the Hundred Brothers was a very grand, powerful and noble man called Bhishma. The commander in chief of the army of the Five Brothers was called Arjuna. Although he was third among the five brothers he became commander in chief by virtue of his being a great warrior. The driver of his chariot was Sri Krishna, known as one of the great incarnations of the Lord.
When we talk about the Gita we must make a direct reference to Krishna because he revealed the Gita to Arjuna and unless you know the complete life of Krishna right up to the point of his death, the meaning of the Gita will remain obscure.
From the time of his birth, Krishna faced nothing but grievances and difficulties. Day after day he fought battles and faced his enemies. But from the day he was born up to the day he died, there was not one day he did not laugh. In Indian mythology you will find Krishna as a mischievous child at home, as a young boy playing in the fields with the cowherd boys and girls, as a statesman giving expert advice, as a warrior fighting in battle and as a guru giving absolute lessons on yoga and other sciences.
When both the armies were facing each other the virtuous Arjuna suddenly felt great apprehension and sorrow. Realizing that he would be killing his own family members, he refused to fight, preferring to renounce than to face the battle. It is at this point that the philosophy of Gita begins.
Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that a man has to face life, accept it and fight at every step. Those people who expect everything in life to be comfortable and to their liking will always suffer difficulties. Accept life in whatever way it comes to you. Try to get the best out of it by way of a philosophy, understanding or through wisdom. Every man is working to fulfil his own great ambitions and desires. If they are fulfilled he is happy, but at the same time afraid, because maybe next time they will be lost to him. If his desires remain unfulfilled he is completely broken. Herein begin the problems of life whether mental, psychological or emotional.
This is the eternal battle which you have to face and fight, which everybody is fighting from birth up to death. These Five and Hundred Brothers symbolize the two great conflicting forces in every individual. In order for the individual to progress, conflict is necessary. Without these opposing forces you cannot evolve. Comfort and pleasure are death because they do not give the individual any kind of push to go ahead in his life. Difficulties and problems are actually the accelerators of human evolution. Therefore you have to continually create and confront the conflict, only then will the soul evolve. Divine and spiritual knowledge comes to one who accepts and understands the nature of conflict.
Between these two parties or opposing forces, present in everyone, there is one, Lord Krishna, who is the charioteer or driver of the car. His body is the chariot. He is the inner soul or guru helping every man in this conflict. Although he is not directly involved in the fight he is behind it, creating it so that the soul or individual consciousness will evolve. It is in this context that we must understand the Gita. Out of these two conflicting forces in human life one force must be subdued and the other expressed. Conflict has to be faced with an aspiration and background of yoga. When conflict begins in you the only thing you should do is understand it and begin to practise yoga. Yoga concerns itself with the evolution of individual consciousness from the lower planes to the highest realms.
Yoga has a definite beginning and it progresses according to the evolution of consciousness. There is a stage when yoga comes to a point of culmination, not termination. The name of the first chapter of Gita is 'The Yoga pf Dejection'. There are many yogas: hatha yoga, bhakti yoga, karma yoga, tantra yoga, nada yoga, gyana yoga and so on and so forth. But have you ever heard of the yoga of dejection, yoga of disappointment, frustration and breakdown? Yoga begins, not when you turn the mala, but when the scales are heavily loaded against you - when you are facing overwhelming problems in your life. Unless your soul faces conflicts, unless your mind faces difficulties and disappointments, it will not become active; it will live like a pig, absolutely contented and satisfied to sleep continually.
Don't consider these differences and problems, as external ones. Gita
is not talking about material problems or the basic necessities of life
such as food and clothing. It is talking about those problems in man which
psychologists are also talking about today. The deep rooted problems concerning
your inner personality, which are as deep as the subterranean planes of
the ocean. You may say that you have no problems, but I don't believe
it, because it is impossible to exist without them. This duality or two
contradictory souls are working side by side in every man except the most
enlightened sage. It is known as the starting point of yoga. Once we have
become aware of these two great conflicting forces, we are faced with
the problem of what to do with them- whether to try and eliminate them,
criticize or analyze them, or cry and scream over them. Don't try to put
a covering over the struggles and battles within you. Whether you are
a good man or a bad man, a man full of passion or one with criminal tendencies,
you must know and understand what is inside you.
Modern psychology has brought to our notice that there are thousands' and thousands of people on this blessed earth who do not want to know what they are because the moment they discover their own nature they react with fear and disbelief. This is the greatest thing holding man back. Each and every item, whether it is birth or death, loss or gain, praise or criticism, love or hatred, conflict or peace, passion or anger, lurking in the depths of your consciousness, must become well known to you. This is the second advice of Gita.
Even if you discover and understand your own conflicts or problems they still remain with you. For this reason you have to begin sadhana- the practical side of yoga. In Gita, sadhana begins with karma yoga - the yoga of action. That is, you have to transform your karma, your daily activities in such a way that they are conducive to your spiritual progress. Through action you are expressing yourself, thus unburdening your soul. Side by side with karma yoga you should practise raja yoga, then bhakti yoga, then gyana yoga, in order to be victorious in battle and eliminate the conflicts that are lurking in your personality. When your mind is completely free from the influence and association of conflicts then you are a liberated man- a jivanmukta.
The concept of liberation according to Gita is not when you close your eyes, withdraw your mind and enter into the great void. This experience is not related to actual life. Gita adds a new dimension to liberation. It is living life, without being affected by it at any time, or at any cost. It is detachment in the midst of the holocaust.
When you face this peculiar and illogical life, the great void is completely eliminated. You don't know what samadhi means. In Gita it says that salvation is related to your love, your hatred, frustrations and accomplishments. People think 'I am Brahman, full of bliss. I am part of that consciousness', but come down to normal life and fight with their wife, Complete freedom should be brought upon earth, into one's daily life. It should not be restricted to the meditation room- it must come into your kitchen and be expressed when you are working in a shop, driving a motor car or when you are about to face an emotional crisis.
To experience complete freedom in every walk of life, meditation for one hour is not enough. You have to have a completely re-orientated philosophy, a retrained and a healthy mind and a cultured way of thinking with new dimensions of awareness.
Renunciation is not freedom. According to Gita abstention and refrainment from your duties and responsibilities is living a half life. The yoga of Gita is known as poorna yoga- complete yoga. If you lay stress on bhakti yoga for example and say: 'No hatha yoga, it is only for sick people; no raja yoga, it is only for swamis; no karma yoga, no gyana yoga; only singing the name of the Lord, playing the drum and dancing'. This is called apoorna yoga. It is yoga but it is not complete. In the same way as you have a nice mixture of people or colours you must also have a good combination of yoga, because you are not one- your personality is composed of four essential elements: dynamism, devotion, mysticism and rationalism. This is called complete nutrition in life. According to these needs you should practise karma yoga for dynamism, bhakti yoga for emotions or devotion, raja yoga or tantra yoga etc. for mysticism and gyana yoga or Vedanta for rationalism.
When you want to imbibe the philosophy of Gita into your daily life just remember these few points. First of all work hard; expect things but if they don't come you should not be broken; you must be courageous and again go on with new ventures.
Next the mind must be balanced, but it should be a spontaneous culmination of the process of karma yoga. Whatever yoga you practise never forget the central consciousness or atman within you. It is cosmic, infinite and the source of all your yogas. As a practitioner of yoga, both dynamism- your work, accomplishments and ambitions- and yogic life must be practised side by side.
Finally, don't condemn any phase of life, because they are all phases of consciousness and not devoid of consciousness. If you condemn anyone's life, a householder's life or a sannyasin's life or even a drunkard's life you are creating a sickness in your mind. It is written in the Gita, whether he is a sick man, a great man or a helpless man, Krishna says, they are all my different points of evolution, the different corners of my great picture.
If you practise your hatha yoga, karma yoga, bhakti yoga, etc. with this broad and liberal attitude to life, you will not only be successful in every way, you will gain enlightenment also.
Contentment does not come by achievement. It comes by a sense of enlightenment and it is because of yoga. Likewise everyone of you must try, must have an experiment with yoga and I assure you that if the world has failed you, if your family and friends have failed you; perhaps if your own body and your own promises have failed you - there is one thing that will never fail and that's yoga. You can definitely take this from me as a very bold pronouncement.