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Bhagavad Gita: The biggest gift to humankind

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Greetings everyone! On the 19th of Aug 2022 when the people of India celebrated the auspicious festival of Janmastami – the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna. As we celebrate Janmastami with Dahi handi (a popular festival sport) and panchajiri (A sweet also known as Panjiri) I find my mind wandering in the verses of the Bhagavad Gita. For those who are not familiar with the ancient Indian text of Bhagavad Gita, it is one of the most popular philosophical conversations between Lord Krishna and the prince Arjuna, which is part of the great epic of the Mahabharata.

Bhagavad Gita contains 18 Adhyayas (chapters) and around 700 Slokas (verses). It is a very popular read in India and around the globe. Mahatma Gandhi once said about Bhagavad Gita, “The seeker is at liberty to extract from this treasure any meaning he likes, to enable him to enforce in his life the central teaching.” It is truly an amazing book filled with knowledge that one can consume and apply throughout his life. Head of the Manhattan Project and the father of nuclear bomb Robert Oppenheimer quoted Bhagavad Gita as he witnessed the first detonation of a nuclear weapon on July 16, 1945, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”.  

I’m not here to promote any religion or ideology; I myself do not believe in any mythical stories and beliefs, but as a student of philosophy I would encourage everyone to at least look at the context of the Gita it will provide you with lots of the answers that you might be looking for. Here are a few of the verses, which I like the most, that will make you eager to read the Bhagavad Gita.

1. Chapter 2 Verse 28

अव्यक्तादीनि भूतानि व्यक्तमध्यानि भारत |

अव्यक्तनिधनान्येव तत्र का परिदेवना || 2.28 ||

Translation: Why grieve over the matter, O Bharat (Arjun), when all being disembodied before birth and disembodied after death, appear to possess a body between the two events?

This is one of my favourite verses, which explains why we should not get worried unnecessarily over small matters. Krishna tells Arjuna that all beings are body-less after death and were body-less before birth. You were not here before your birth and you will not be here after your death so why worry about the things you do in between, just do what you like to do, just do what you think is right for you; even if you fail who cares in next 80 years we’ll all be dead and nothing will matter. So, stop overthinking and grieving about small changes. 

2. Chapter 2 Verse 59

विषया विनिवर्तन्ते निराहारस्य देहिन: |

रसवर्जं रसोऽप्यस्य परं दृष्ट्वा निवर्तते || 2. 59 ||

Translation: Aspirants may restrain the senses from their objects of enjoyment, but the taste for the sense objects remains. However, even this taste ceases for those who realize the Supreme. 

This verse talks about one’s desire and control over one’s senses. It says that your senses will encourage you to follow the desires of life but you have to focus on the higher supreme to achieve that higher supreme. Let me make this easy for you; in the age of this social media we are often distracted, our senses want us to look at Instagram or surf on Twitter because that is a kind of desire, but to clear your exam, to excel in life you must have to come out from the world of social media and work for your dream.

Exactly what this verse tells you, for you, your supreme could be anything, it could be clearing any exam, securing a good placement in the company, or getting a new project for your firm. For that to happen you must focus on the higher goal, and not let your desire drive the course of your future. You have to focus on your goal and desires will shatter away, you just have to have enough willpower (which I think everyone has).

3. Chapter 3 Verse 8

नियतं कुरु कर्म त्वं कर्म ज्यायो ह्यकर्मण: |

शरीरयात्रापि च ते न प्रसिद्ध्येदकर्मण: || 3.8 ||

Translation: You should thus perform your prescribed duties since the action is superior to inaction. By ceasing activity, even your bodily maintenance will not be possible.

Machiavelli wrote in the prince, “There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others.” This means the action is any day better than inaction. You could be a student, an employee or an aspirant who has a prescribed duty. If you are a student, your duty is to study for academics. You should not waste time on petty things, instead work on the academics that will help you to make your future bright.

If you are an employee, there must be some tasks or projects that you have, you should not wait for the right time to complete them because the sooner you complete them, the more ahead you’ll be, in this dog-eat-dog world, against your competitor. If you are an aspirant, there is a large syllabus ahead of you, complete it, and do not wait any longer because for you to delay someone else is clearing it at a much faster rate. So the crux is never to let any inaction take over action in your life.

4. Chapter 5 Verse 26

कामक्रोधवियुक्तानां यतीनां यतचेतसाम् |

अभितो ब्रह्मनिर्वाणं वर्तते विदितात्मनाम् || 5.26 ||

Translation: For those, who have broken out of anger and lust through constant effort, who have subdued their mind, and are self-realized, liberation from material existence is both here and hereafter. 

There might be some time when you often regret something after raging over it, you think that the anger has made you say things that you don’t actually mean, or because of the irk of the moment you’ve taken a decision that is adversarial for your future.

Krishna said that you cannot win over anger and lust easily, it requires constant effort. One needs to liberate oneself from materialism to overcome anger and lust. Lust as Krishna explained is as dangerous as anger because he who is entangled in lustful activity will see all the end in the desire rather than focusing on something supreme that he can achieve. Well, you say that it is easier said than done, it is really hard or nearly impossible to control your mind. Why worry my friend, Krishna was already aware of your dilemma. See next verse.

5. Chapter 6 Verse 35

असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् |

अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते || 6.35 ||

Translation: Lord Krishna said: O mighty-armed son of Kunti, what you say is correct; the mind is indeed very difficult to restrain. But it is disciplined, by perseverance (or practice) and renunciation (detachment).  

The mind is indeed restless and most difficult to subdue, but it could be restrained by constant effort. Repeated endeavour to keep the mind steadily fixed on the goal, the higher goal that you want to achieve in life. Sometimes only perseverance is not enough, that’s where renunciation or detachment comes into the picture. You might find this difficult to understand, let me give you an appropriate modern example. Assume that you are a student of engineering, who has a GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) exam in 6 months.

You have lots of syllabi to cover. You analyze your schedule and find out that majority of your time is getting wasted on watching videos on YouTube. In this case, first, you apply Abhyas i.e. discipline or practice. You pledge to watch YouTube for one hour in the whole day. Months pass and you cover some part of the syllabus and instead of watching one hour on YouTube, you take the liberty to watch it for 2 hours. You realize that a strategy of Abhyas is not working the way it should be, now you use the second method that is Vairagya i.e. detachment or renunciation. You will delete YouTube from your phone with an instant effect. After applying Abhyas and Vairagya properly you’ll be able to focus on the higher goal.

Eventually, I realized that I wrote a long piece. Nevertheless, I enjoyed writing it and I hope this will help you to go deeper into the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita. If you find these five verses enjoyable do give a chance to the whole book. Happy Reading. Jai Sri Krishna. 

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