Introduction to Srimad Bhagavad Gita

The historical background

As the war clouds gathered around him, Arjuna stood in the midst of the battlefield at Kurukshetra, distressed and perplexed. A renowned archer, the favourite pupil of the great Guru Dronacharya and victor of many a war, Arjuna was now beset by utter helplessness and despair. He and his brothers, the virtuous Pandavas, had not wanted this war. Arjuna now recalled the many occasions when they had quietly yielded to the countless injustices meted out to them by the Kauravas – their cousins, sons of their blind uncle Dhritrashtra, since the latter assumed kingship after the death of their own father, Pandu, in self exile.

Since then, Arjuna and his brothers Yudhishthir, Bhima, Nakula and Sahdev, had borne innumerable humiliations heaped upon them by Duryodhana, the eldest son of Dhritrashtra. Duryodhana, taking full advantage of his father’s blind attachment to him and leading his brothers on a mission of hatred and contempt for the Pandavas, made several attempts to kill their cousins, in order to clear his accession to the throne of Hastinapur. The Kauravas were notorious for the atrocities they perpetrated. The Pandavas, on the other hand, were noble and virtuous.

So deep was the Pandavas’ respect and love for their elders, that they could not contemplate a war, even for a kingship which was rightfully theirs. It was not as though they feared battle. This war had been forced upon them by the Kauravas who wanted to eliminate them. The Pandavas were courageous and adept at warfare and the victors of several battles in the past.

However, this war was different. Arjuna saw before him, in the enemy lines, his Grandsire Bhishma Pitamah, his revered teachers Guru Dronacharya and Kripacharya, and several other venerable and cherished relations, for whom he harboured great regard. How could his nobility permit him to lift arms against the very people he had so far served with humility?

He looked agonisingly towards his divine friend , Lord of Dwarka, who had offered to become his charioteer in this great war, and beseeched Him, “Pray take my chariot into the midst of the battlefield, so that I may witness all with greater clarity.” So began the glorious dialogue constituting the substance of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, which has been the beaconlight of many a spiritual seeker.

The Spiritual Relevance of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita today

How is the story of Arjuna relevant to the common man today? Pujya Ma has dealt abundantly with this subject in the first chapter of this book, which She always describes as extremely important.

This scripture acquaints the struggling aspirant of spirituality with the arena of his spiritual endeavour. Just as Arjuna observes the battlefield and readies himself for war, the spiritual seeker must objectively observe the path he should take. He must pre-view his aides, enemies and his own positive and negative tendencies.

He must become aware of the power of the negative forces, most predominantly his attachment, and gain the strength to tear asunder this bondage to facilitate his progress on the spiritual path. The spectre of a fearsome battle between Truth and its allies, the humane and divine attributes, and the untruth with its allies, the inhuman and demonical tendencies, looms ahead. The aspirant who seeks to embark on his sadhana – spiritual practice – must perceive both these within himself with absolute clarity and integrity, thus reducing his chances of an internal trauma such as Arjuna faced when he cried out to Lord Krishna, “My Gandiva (bow) is dropping from my hands! My skin is burning and my mind is reeling! I can stand no more!”

Just as Arjuna was attached to his ‘good name’, his virtuous demeanour and what he considered to be his lofty knowledge, a spiritual aspirant must realise that these are the very considerations which weaken his resolve and prove to be a formidable obstacle. The fear of disgrace and pretentions of superiority are critical adversaries for the pilgrim of the spirit.

The seeker’s endeavour to escape from such a precarious situation is reflected in Arjuna’s plea to Lord Krishna, “Even if the avarice of the opposing forces prevents them from seeing any sin in the destruction of their kith and kin, should we, who see the innate vice in such destruction, not consider distancing ourselves from this painful, albeit righteous, war?” Thus the spiritual aspirant takes recourse to ‘illegitimate’ knowledge in order to escape treading the righteous path which is often fraught with the pain of distancing oneself from one’s attachments.

The echoes of the mental thought processes of that era can be heard even today. We have only to look within ourselves to find:

  • Dhritrashtra, blinded by his attachment for his son;
  • Bhishma Pitamah, the ‘protector’ of the kingdom, giving in to his own false justifications and priorities, thus supporting the forces of tyranny and destruction.
  • King Drupad and Dronacharya, inherently inimical and filled with hatred, yet supposedly fighting a war of righteousness!

It is in such a scenario that the Lord finds Himself in the role of Divine Mentor to an escapist Arjuna! So also is the present day seeker of Truth – ready to escape the unpleasant, especially when kith and kin are involved! All principles are forsaken, and the spiritual aspirant becomes prepared to renounce the very Truth that he has upheld all his life. Today we see the moral bankruptcy of leaders because noble and truth loving souls have become escapists!

Thus stood Arjuna on the battlefield, hands trembling and unable to hold his weapon, the Gandiva, breaking out in sweat and incapable of seeing which way his duty lay. It was his good fortune that he was guided by the Lord Himself, Who, through His Love, His diplomacy and His strategy bade Arjuna to lift up his mighty bow and fight the wicked and the tyrannical. He began by conferring upon Arjuna the knowledge of the Atma, the all pervading Self, and showed him the insignificance of the human being in the infinite spectrum of Eternity and of the Universe. He urged Arjuna not to be a coward and gave him courage to fight for Dharma or the principles of righteousness.

Thus the concluding shloka of the Gita proclaims that where there is the Supreme Truth, symbolised by Lord Krishna, and where He is accompanied by Arjuna, the wielder of the Gandiva, there shall inevitably be Shri – fame, Vijay – victory, and Vibhuti – divinity manifest. Wherever the spiritual aspirant is prepared for battle against his own negative tendencies and is supported by Truth Itself, he is bound to meet with victory.

The uniqueness of this treatise

There have been several commentaries of the Gita by erudite scholars and Spiritual Souls. However each word of this present elucidation of the Gita by Param Pujya Ma seems to identify with the reader’s thoughts, interests and life. It is a dialogue between one heart and another. It understands the frailties, difficulties and ignorance of the spiritual seeker and lifts the practicant to the understanding of One who speaks through life’s experience. It does not merely speak of the Atma or the Self, but is an actual description of One who resides in That Supreme State. Such is the beauty of Pujya Ma, the saintly author of the original Hindi edition of this sacred treatise.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that this treatise is an invitation to spiritual life. The compelling language that urges the reader to sample the life of the Realised One at every step is most encouraging. It almost takes one by the hand to lead one into the fragrant pathways of spiritual living.

  • The one with faith considers it to be his dharma to embody each tenet of the Gita.
  • Such a one holds the Gita to be Lord Krishna’s injunction.
  • He believes each tenet to be the Lord’s specific command to him personally.
  • He knows the Gita directs the aspirant to follow in the Lord’s footsteps.

If this sacred text is read with devotional sincerity, it will definitely help the aspirant to ascend to the highest rungs of understanding of the spiritual realms. Practical instruction in each shloka will help him in his day to day life. The wide skies of liberation will open to the one who faithfully applies this instruction to his everyday life.

Pujya Ma has always maintained that the Gita is not merely a discourse but an injunction of the Lord. Just as an obedient son translates his father’s will into life’s reality with integrity, so also must we translate the will of our Divine Father into our daily lives. Indeed, one who treats it with such reverent conviction will surely attain the highest state.

There have been many excellent treatises written on the sacred Bhagavad Gita. But rare indeed is this treatise, wrought merely as a gift of love, to uplift and illumine an ignorant child. This book is a sacred work of infinite love, gifted to a young girl aged 20, who was ignorant of all matters spiritual and scriptural.

This text is like a multifaceted mirror which reflects different aspects of the deepest wisdom for people of varied understanding and knowledge. To the ignorant it illumines the first steps of the ladder of practical spirituality; to the scholar it is a veritable thesis of the deepest wisdom; for the worldly, it provides invaluable assistance in the improvement of human interpersonal relationships, and for the spiritual aspirant it enunciates the ultimate principles of yoga.

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