Bhagvad Gita needs no introduction.It is the Song of God, sung by Bhagwaan Krishna, narrated to a dejected Arjuna, who had lost his conscience to differentiate between the right and wrong in the face of waging a war against his kith and kin. Krishna then came to his rescue, divulging to him the Divine Knowledge required to live a life of equanimity.
Bhagvad Gita is a wonderful text teaching humans how to navigate through life without being bogged down by trivia. In a post-COVID19 world, wherein chaos and uncertainty reign supreme, Bhagvad Gita is a wonderful literature piece on which we can anchor our lives. I always yearned to learn Bhagvad Gita, and the lockdown provided me with an opportunity to do so.
I had the fortune of learning Bhagvad Gita from a renowned Bharatnatyam dancer during lockdown. Our Aacharya employed the principles of ‘Shruti’ and ‘Smriti’ to make us chant, learn and understand Gita. ‘Shruti’ literally means ‘to listen’, while ‘Smriti’ means ‘to memorise’. We followed the ancient technique of oral transmission of Gita from the Aacharya to the students, but over Skype! This approach forced me to be a good listener, and focus on the phonetics and pronunciation of these shlokas. It made me realize how erroneous my comprehension was while reading Samskrutam.
The thrust of each class was on listening and understanding. Referencing to the physical book would be allowed only after the students had chanted the shlokas following the Aacharya’s diction. The classes begun by learning to chant the invocatory shloka, followed by learning the invocatory hymn celebrating Mata Gita through Gita Dhyanam. Once we could learn to sing and understand the Dhyanam, did we begin with the main text of Gita.
Bhagvad Gita, translated to The Song of God, is composed of 700 hymns divided into 18 chapters. It navigates various facets of life, ranging from metaphysical, spiritual, devotional to managerial aspects of life.
The first six chapters, that can be called as “twam” (you), deal with humans and their humanity, and how every person must outgrow his desires and emotions and live a life of equipoise and equanimity while focusing on jnana (divine knowledge) and karma (action). It calls upon people to develop a conscience for dispassionate action, without being concerned about the outcome.
The middle six chapters deal with “tat” or the Supreme Consciousness, wherein Bhagwaan reveals Himself. These chapters sing the glories of how the Divine manifests and talks of achieving Him through bhakti (devotion).
The final six chapters deal with “asi” which bridges the gap between “twam” and “tat” and makes one realize that the so-called duality of humanity and Godhood is a mere myth, the realization of which results in “Advaita” or the epiphany that each creature is a divine manifestation himself. That is when the cycles of birth and death breaks down and does one realize his own divinity, the sukti of “Aham Brahmasmi” (or, I AM).
So far, we have covered the journey of first three chapters ie Arjun Vishadyoga (Arjuna’s despondence, Chapter 1), Sankhya Yoga (The Path of Knowledge, Chapter 2) and Chapter 3, Karma Yoga (The Path of Knowledge, Chapter 3). The first three chapters lay down the foundation of the text, focusing on realizing that a man must stand by what is right than what is ought to be right, come what may. That can be practiced by knowing the impermanence of things in life (and the life itself), as well as being an action-oriented person focusing on the goal without being attached to the outcome of the goal (and being indifferent to the result of the outcome).
The revelation was path-breaking. It made me realize that tribulations of life are trivial and being focused on your duty is of prime importance. A person must not be unaffected by the extremities of pleasure and pain, of love and hate, and must be a sthitha-pragya (equipoise). It resulted in a paradigm shift for me that enabled me to get out of my rut, and embrace the circumstances of my life with more maturity.
As I progress further in my journey of studying the Gita, I invite you all to join me in this journey, where I share my own experiences and understanding of Gita.