The Bhagavad Gita. A remarkable event. An odyssey which commences with the realities of life and conquers the ultimate pinnacles of ideals. A divine elixir that transforms one from the jiva state to the brahmic state. Spiritual contemplation that blends theology and life. A stream of thought that flows from individual peace to universal peace. A reservoir of energy that turns sorrow into delight.
This and much more can be said about the Bhagavad Gita, which is also known as the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita or simply as the Gita.
Gandhiji gave his opinion regarding the Gita saying, “The mother that gave me birth has departed, but in times of difficulty I have learnt to go to mother Gita. There is no scope for despair for one who becomes a devotee of the Gita; he is continuously blissful. I wish the Gita be taught not just in government schools, but in every educational institution. It should be a matter of shame for a Hindu boy or girl not knowing about the Gita.”
The words of Vinoba Bhave are also worth remembering, “My body has been nourished by my mother’s milk. But above that, my heart and intellect have both been nourished by the milk of the Gita” (Vinoba Bhave – Speeches on the Gita).
Those who come into contact with the Gita continue to have such experiences.
Indeed, like a statue made of salt melts on attempting to fathom the depth of the ocean, so too is experience with respect to the Gita. Many foreigners, either intentionally or by chance, have taken a glimpse at the Gita and have consequently irrevocably surrendered themselves to it. Henry David Thoreau says, “The answer to any of the questions in my life can be found in this small book.” Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “The Gita is the greatest wealth of mankind. When I read sentences like ‘सर्वभूतस्थमात्मानं सर्वभूतानि चात्मनि।’ – ‘Saravabhootasthamãtmãnam sarvabhootãni chãtmani’ (Gita: 6/29), my heart rejoices.”. Warren Hastings experienced, “To make morality/ethics reach the pinnacles of success, the Gita is unparalleled.”
Truly, the Bhagavad Gita has entranced its readers. It has guided the lost on the way of life, and has redirected people’s gaze, immersing them in introspection. It has made those weak in religion, courageous, and has inspired faithless scholars towards devotion. It has affirmed restraint in one who indulges, and has explained the importance of vairãgya (detachment from to worldly pleasures) to one who has become unrestrained under the shield of bhakti. It has helped people to shake off laziness, pouring in them the enthusiasm to endeavour, and it has invigorated the defeated. What has the Bhagavad Gita not done? How has this all been made possible? The answer can be found in a shlok in the Gita Mahatmya – ‘यस्माद् घर्ममयी गीता सर्वज्ञानप्रयोजिका। सर्वशास्त्रमयी गीता तस्माद् गीता विशिष्यते॥’ – ‘Yasmãd dharmamayee Geetã sarvagnãnaprayojikã, sarvashãstramayee Geetã tasmãd Geetã vishishyate.’ Meaning, ‘The Gitã abounds with dharma, is the inspirer of all knowledge and encompasses all the shastras. This is why the Gita has attained a unique status’ (Gita Mahatmya Anusandhan).
Let us take a look at some interesting facts about the Gita.
Before we contemplate on the Gita, we must first remember the Mahabharat because the Bhagavad Gita is a part of the Mahabharat.
The Mahabharat is history (itihãs). It is the cultural history of great (mahãn) India (Bharat). ‘इति’ – ‘Iti’ means ‘in this way’; ‘ह’ – ‘ha’ means ‘indeed’, ‘truly’; and ‘आस’ – ‘ãsa’ means ‘occurred’. The etymological meaning of the word ‘itihãs’ is thus, “In this way (it) has truly occurred.” The ‘Mahabharat’ is a documentary poem of true events.
Maharshi Veda Vyãsji is its composer. Here, in eighteen parvas (chapters) and a hundred thousand shloks, a vast span of the history of India has been immortalized.
The author is wise enough to ensure that nothing worth saying has been left out, and that nothing unnecessary has been said. In the Mahabharat it is stated regarding itself, ‘घर्मे चार्थे च कामे च मोक्षे च भरतर्षभ। यदिहास्ति तदन्यत्र यन्नेहाऽस्ति न तत् क्वचित्॥’ – ‘Dharme chãrthe cha kãme cha mokshe cha bharatarshabha, yadihãsti tadanyatra yannehã’sti na tat kvachit’ – ‘With regards to the four endeavours – dharma, artha, kãma and moksha, only what has been said in the Mahabharat can be seen in the world, and whatever has not been said here is not to be seen anywhere’(Mahabharat 1.56.33). Thus, the Mahabharat is a complete volume, explaining all aspects of life. For this very reason this divine volume, which is an encyclopedia of India’s sanãtan cultural history, has attained great respect in world literature. It is held in great regard as the longest poem on earth.
The Gita shines with beauty within this glorious Mahabharat: like a small pãrijãt tree shines in a garden; like a star woven into a garland shines; like the moon, the king of the night, shines amongst the stars; like a noble son shines in a noble family; and like the atman shines in the body.
Truly, the soul of the entire Mahabharat is marvellously encompassed in this small shastra.
Let us take a look at the grandeur of the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, a divine part of the Mahabharat.
Sadhu Bhadreshdas, Ph. D., D.Litt.
Translated by: Sadhu Paramvivekdas