Bhagavad Gita

Bhagvad Gita – Is the book of authority for the Hindus. It literally means ‘Song of the Divine’. Although it appears in the mythological epic ‘the Mahabharata’, it is given the status of ‘Shruti’ as it contains the essence of the Upanishadic teachings of the Vedas. It has 700 verses in 18 chapters. The Bhagvad Gita is in the form of a spiritual dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjun on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.The background is apt as the dialogue concentrates on the use of spirituality in daily context. Arjun is torn between his duty to fight for justice and his love for his kinsmen – who he has to fight. He becomes dejected and debates with Sri Krishna that no war can be justified on any grounds. Sri Krishna, through this dialogue convinces him that he has to fight; there is no other way. The discussion brings into focus various interesting aspects of the Hindu philosophy.Ideas developed in the Gita:The essential nature of man as ‘Atman’ (The eternal witness – as the Self).The essential nature of the universe as ‘Brahman’ (God manifesting as everything).’Maya’ (loosely explained as -ignorance) is the reason why this Essential nature remains hidden.Relationship between ‘Atman and ‘Brahman’.Ideas about: Reincarnation/Law of Karma/Gunas-The Universe expressing itself through three qualities are developed in the Gita.Four pathways to God or Self-realisation.Idea of God as the Creator and Preserver who descends (Avatars) to earth for the good of mankind.Path of devotionPath of Devotion: Sri Krishna teaches – the easiest path to God realisation is through devotion. One can think of God as having form and qualities. This allows one to build a relationship with God through worship, prayers and meditation. Bhakti and Parabhakti: Sri Krishna teaches that devotion to God in order to gain something from Him is lower form of love. Love for the sake of love is the higher form of devotion and is called Parabhakti. He further says: It does not matter what is offered to God; a fruit, a flower or a leaf. He accepts all offerings made with love. It is the love of the devotee that counts rather than any formal worship.Avat Avatars: God incarnates himself on earth again and again for the good of mankind. The Bhagavata talks of ten avatars of Vishnu. Krishna is considered to be the eighth avatar. Ninth being Buddha and the tenth is yet to come and will be called Kalki. Room for many other Avatars: Hindu teachings allow for many other Avatars. These Avatars come with tremendous compassion and ability to give God-realisation to others. They always herald a new wave of spirituality to engulf mankind. Hinduism allows for and accepts avatars of all other faiths.arsReincarnationReincarnation: Our essential nature is called the ‘Atman’ that does not die with the body. It is eternal and all pervading. Its nature is that of consciousness, existence and bliss. The body is just the outer garment, which is discarded when worn out. Cycle of Birth, Childhood, Old age, Death and rebirth is called ‘Samsara’. The soul continues to reincarnate until it realises God. The spiritual progress made in each lifetime is not wasted but helps in the next life. The only things that come with us when we die are the fruits of our actions and the character we have developed. Reincarnation only stops when we merge with God or realize our true Self. That is called ‘Moksha’.Conclusions:Renunciation: The central theme of the Gita is renunciation. “Work away; but offer the fruits of your actions to God. Do not run after the objects of the senses. Lead a detached life. We have to realise that the essential ‘I’ is the witness – it has to be extricated and seen as separate from the mind/body complex. Yet renunciation does not mean running away from one’s duties. As long as we feel we are bound we have to make an effort to be free. The way to achieve this is by righteous living.Shrugging off our duties towards society is not the way forward”, teaches the Gita. “Live in the world in a detached way”, is the central message of Gita. “Renounce the trivial in order to gain the majestic.” Devotion to Sri Krishna: The Gita teaches that the essential nature of man is divine; it is a manifestation of God. Yet the Gita makes it clear that for most of us the way forward may be through adoration and worship of an external God. Sri Krishna says that there is nothing wrong with this idea.It is an easier way to divinity. The idea of ‘God with forms and qualities’ is an important tool in spiritual search. It is perhaps a better pathway as the tool we use is also the end product we strive for. Synthesis of many views of God: The earlier Upanishadic philosophies taught of the underlying reality as ‘Brahman’- manifesting as the universe. It also manifests as ‘Atman’ in all living things. Gita synthesizes these views and adds to it the idea of God with forms and attributes. It makes a serious contribution in putting across many differing prevalent views on spirituality in a coherent manner. The concept of ‘Brahman’ as being without attributes is modified to take on the idea of ‘Brahman’ with attributes in the form of a personalised God. Synthesis of many pathways to God:The popularity of the Gita is, to some extent due to the fact that it managed to show that different pathways to God are all equally valid. God can be reached through Paths of Knowledge, Action, Devotion and Meditation. One can choose the pathway or any combination of pathways to suit one’s own abilities. Pluralistic methods to reach God have been advocated by Hinduism and the Gita is a good example of this. We all have different starting points in spiritual progress hence the method we each adopt to reach the same destination will necessarily be different. This essential freedom does not have to be sacrificed.

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