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Bhagavad Gīta

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Bhagavad Gīta or Gods Song is one of the three basic texts of vēdānta. It is a part of a comprehensive epic work „Mahābharāta“, written by Vyāsa. It is not clear when the Gita was written, but scholars suggest that this took place about the third century B.C.E. It was brought to its present form by some follower of the Vedanta in the second century A.D. The classical commentators of the Gīta are many. Among them we have the great names of Śankara (788-826 A.D.), Rāmānuja (1017-1137 A.D.), and Madhva (1199-1317? A.D.). In 1785, Charles Wilkins translated the work into English, this was followed by a French translation by Emile Burnouf in 1861. Until now it has been translated into more than 75 languages and published apr. 2000 times.

The key to the proper appraisal of the Gita consists in the recognition of the Gita as a dialogue between a wisdom teacher and a disciple (guru- śiṣya samvāda).

The story of Gīta is based on the battlefield of the war between two armies, both belonging to one family. This should not be taken literally, the war is just the actual situation, which is used to look at highly philosophical values. The war between cousins is a symbol and interpreted as a battlefield within ourselves, our growth through the battle of inner questions. The general of one of the armies, Arjuna, asks his charioteer and friend Krishna to stop his chariot in the middle of the battlefield, because he sees the absurdity of the war. The conversation starts between two friends, but changes to the discussion between the Guru, who is Krishna and represents the Absolute and Arjuna, the disciple.

Each of the eighteen chapters is like a differently shaped stone forming the archway that the Gita may be compared to. The first and last chapters have to rest on the ground. The turning point in the wisdom teaching is in the middle, IX chapter – the highest point of the archway. Starting from the X chapter Arjuna as a disciple fully trusts his Guru Krishna and asks him to teach the secret wisdom of the Absolute. At the end of the last chapter Krishna says (XVIII,63):

"Thus has wisdom more secret than all that is secret been declared to you by me; (critically) scrutinizing all, omitting nothing, do as you like."

Contemplation belongs to the domain of freedom and not to the necessary obligations.

Every chapter of the Gita indicates at its end that it is a particular "yoga" giving primacy to one unitive notion pertaining to the wisdom of the Absolute. The terms Brahma-Vidya (wisdom-science of the Absolute), Yoga-Śāstra (scientific textbook of contemplative discipline), Krishna-Arjuna-samvāda (dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna) and the naming of the Bhagavad Gīta (Song of God) and its qualification as a series of Upanishads (philosophical instructions), in the plural, are expressions common to every chapter description.

Each of the eighteen chapters of the Gita has been called a Yoga. The conflict of Arjuna itself is called a yoga in the first chapter. It is easy to see that the word “yoga” is used in the Gita in a very extended, comprehensive and exactly conceived meaning. It is not limited to Patanjali Yoga, and the familiar states of progression in yogic practice mentioned in Patanjali's Yoga-Sutras are glaringly absent. The Gita has its own definitions and implied descriptions of persons of yogic perfection here and there all over the work, which distinguishes the unique, secret and special character of the yoga meant in the Gita. It is a perennial way of wisdom based on intuitive reasoning, covering practical and theoretical aspects of contemplative life, in which the method consists of equalizing counterparts of any given situation.

Yoga and Dialectics have very much in common. When the dialectical character of the Gita is understood, a door then opens leading to the solution of many enigmas. Yoga in the Gita combines religion and philosophy, cosmology and psychology, austerities and dispositions. From the extreme idealism or rationalism of the early chapters to the pragmatism or realism of the last chapters, yoga is employed as a common method or correlating factor.

"One who is able to see inaction in action and action in inaction, he among men is intelligent; he is the one of unitive way (yogi) while still engaged in every (possible) kind of work." (IV, 18)

Excerpt of the Introduction to the Bhagavad Gīta by Nataraja Guru (The Bhagavad Gita. A Sublime Hymn of Dialectics Composed by the antique sagebard Vyāsa, English translation and commentary by Nataraja Guru, D.K.Printworld (P) Ltd. 2011, first edition 1963)

First time this text was published by our friends Gundega Baltic School of Yoga on their webpage