Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Introduction to the Bhagavad Gita

Introduction

The setting of The Bhagavad Gita is ancient India about 5,000 years ago. This is before the record of human history, so there is a legitimate question about how much of it really happened. Is it myth or some combination of “fact” and myth? “Fact” is put in quotation marks because the word itself, in association with the word “myth” implies that in some way a myth is not true. A myth is true; it expresses timeless human values. Use of the term by scholars implies neither the truth nor the falseness of the narrative.” (Wikipedia)

At the outset of The Bhagavad Gita, a civil war is about to commence. Members of families are arrayed on each side of the battlefield. One of the two main characters is Arjuna, a virtuous soldier, highly skilled with the bow and arrow, perhaps the most skillful archer of his time. The other main character is Krishna, whom the Hindus call an Avatar. An Avatar represents the manifestation of God incarnate in human flesh. The Avatar incarnates to teach us mortals that we have a spark of immortality within us; and if we fan this tiny flame, we may find peace amidst the storms of life and be free from suffering once and for all.

Krishna the form represents this state of consciousness free from the suffering that life ordinarily brings. It is the state and not the physical form that is important. Krishna is peace and that peace is inside of us waiting to bloom and pervade our lives in a steady way if we are able to supply the suitable, inner conditions for this flowering. There is much conditioning from the past that gets in the way of our progress on this path, and this is where practice comes in.

Arjuna finds himself in a dilemma as the war is about to start. He knows it’s his duty as a soldier to fight, but it’s his family on the other side and he can’t bring himself to fight with them. It’s an example of what happens when we face a difficult decision in life where the pros and the cons even out. The thinking mind is no longer any help in this situation and we need to dig deeper to discover our true path.

Krishna is Arjuna’s charioteer, and he is there to help Arjuna do the deep digging so that he will know how to proceed. Krishna is there to help Arjuna get in touch with that still, quiet place inside from which promptings arise that guide us intuitively and optimally. If we can learn how to break our attachment to the outer chatter and focus within, we can come into touch with this source of steady wisdom.

Eckhard Tolle (Toe Lay), a contemporary teacher of universal principles, writes some things in the introduction to one of his books (Stillness Speaks, pp. ix-xii) which apply to the book he has written, and they also apply to Krishna’s teachings in the Gita:

"A true spiritual teacher does not have anything to teach in the conventional sense of the word (‘teacher’), such as new information. The function of such a teacher is to help you remove that which separates you from the truth of who you already are and what you already know in the depth of your being. The spiritual teacher is there to uncover and reveal to you that dimension of inner depth that is also peace.

If you come to a spiritual teacher...or these teachings...looking for stimulating ideas, theories, beliefs, or intellectual discussions, there will be a danger of missing the essence of the teachings, which is not in the words but within yourself. It is good to remember that and feel it as you absorb the teachings. The words are signposts. That to which they point is not to be found within the realm of thought, but rather a dimension within yourself that is deeper and infinitely vaster than thought. A vibrantly alive peace is one of the characteristics of that dimension, so whenever you feel inner peace arising as you are in the act of absorbing, the teachings are doing their work and fulfilling their functions as your teacher. They are reminding you of your divine heritage and are pointing the way back home. They have come out of a state of consciousness we may call stillness.

These teachings use words that in the act of reading become thoughts in your mind. But these are not ordinary thoughts...repetitive, noisy, self-serving, and clamoring for attention. Just like every true spiritual teacher, the teachings don't say, 'Look at me,' but 'Look beyond me.' Because the teachings came out of stillness, they have power...the power to take you back into the same stillness from which they arose. That stillness is also inner peace, and that stillness and peace are your essence. It is inner stillness that will save and transform the world."


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Random additional thoughts/notes from Lalita:


The Bhagavad Gita teaches "advaita," or "not two." This is the teaching of nonduality, or oneness and sacredness of all life. It is simlar to the teachings of the Mahavakyas in Indian sacred literature, which teach us, for example, that "That Art Thou" (tat tvam asi), or as Meher Baba said, "You and I are not 'we'; you and I are One."


The Bhagavad Gita offers teachings of wisdom, devotion, service, and love that help people of all ages and times to deepen their relationships in life: relationship to self, to friends/family, to strangers or other people, to animals/plants/Earth, and to God.


Whether literal or not, it is also a beautiful metaphor for the choice to journey into the depths of one's interior life. As we tread this path, we discover more and more that God resides deep within our being and also within everything in the world of forms, and beyond.


We offer these posts to you all, in hopes that you enjoy them and find them transformational in your own lives, as they have been in ours. Please God, may they be as free as possible of our own ignorance or vanity, inspired only by our joy for the Divine and for this incredible sacred text.


Yours in love through service, Lalita and Krishna

1 comment:

ved prakash said...

An enlightening blogspot on Bhagwad Gita. Congrats on your voluminous contribution.
May like to have a look at my blogspot on Human Values from Bhagwad Gita:Relevance for Modern Management.

Ved Prakash
www.ethicalvaluesinvedas.blogspot.com

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