The book culminated from teaching-discussion sessions conducted by the author for over a decade in Mumbai. The students varied a lot; coming from various socio-economic strata, ranging from young adults to the elderly, some of whom were educated and professionally qualified, while others were not. The effort has always been to stimulate reflection, question unexamined beliefs, and opinions, and expose their hollowness, and irrationality, enable comprehension of human frailties, and reveal the rationale underlying the precepts of the Bhagavad Geeta.
The Geeta is sought to be presented as a guide to good living, not determined by a god/gods but as the outflow from the right comprehension of oneself, the nature and processes of the universe, and the very notion of what the Divine is.
The book departs from the usual shloka-commentary format. Instead, it is a dialogue between Arjuna, now a highly evolved radiant master, and Rashmi, a new millennium aspirant. The teaching is interspersed with Arjuna’s recall of his early failing and frailties, and Rashmi’s asides, reflections, and articulation of her misgivings about herself. It is hoped that this format of the Geeta will resonate more intimately with the psyche of the new millennial.
Dr. Suryaprabha Shashidharan taught Philosophy at Govt. of Maharashtra’s colleges in Mumbai and retired as Reader in Philosophy. She has post-graduate degrees in Philosophy, and Education from Bombay University and a doctorate from Poona University. Increasingly drawn to the expanding parameters of Philosophy and its alliances with the sciences, and her own deepening insights into traditional Indian Philosophy, she sought voluntary retirement. She has continued her efforts at delving deeper into Samkhya, Yoga, and Advaita systems, Kashmir Shaivism, Buddhist metaphysics and studies of the mind, the issue of mind-body-consciousness, and the margins of Philosophy and Science. This brought alienation from main-stream positivistic-analytic tracdition-upholding academia. Dr. Shashidharan says she has never regretted her decision.
Dr. Shashidharan is also trained in hatha yoga by hatha yogi Shri Nikam Guruji, founder of Ambika Yoga Kutir, Thane, Maharashtra. She teaches yoga as community service. She also conducts teaching-discussion sessions on the Geeta. Samkhya, Yoga, and Advaita Vedanta philosophies, and some works of Adi Shankaracharya. The objective has always been to bring to focus the spiritual over ritualistic religion.
This book is the out-flow from my experience of teaching the Bhagavad Geeta to young and not so young people for over a decade now Despite its genesis in times ancient and distant, the Geeta has resonated with relevance through the ages, right down into our present millennium. Another remarkable fact is that people with divergent religious allegiances, or even without any allegiance of the sort, have often been drawn to study this Text. I have had evidence of this in the groups that have attended my classes. This becomes easily explicable when it is seen that the Geeta is primarily, perhaps the finest exposition of the art and science of insightful living. Even a quick perusal of the subjects treated in the Text, will bear this out. Opening with Arjuna's dithering, an experience every human being would have suffered; the Text covers the entire panorama of problems visiting humans. Ranging over death, conquest of the ego, control over one's mind, issues of human frailties, and its connection to the widely unknown and even unsuspected deep constitution of human personality, a subject yet untouched by science; the notion ofitvara as not the creator and yet the alpha and omega of all existence, and the possible choice between regarding the Isvara as one's personal God or alternatively as simply the transcendental principle --- the Geeta envisages all the vital issues relating to human life. And remarkably it accomplishes this through just two characters, Arjuna, the raw spiritual aspirant, and Krishna, the Divine, as teacher.
To general readers and spiritual aspirants, Arjun generally comes across as one who they can identify with, and relate to his anxieties, fears, faults, and dithering; his questions and comments; and his quite uninhibitedly expressed feelings of exasperation, despair, and skepticism. Krishna's most striking character, apart from His insightful teaching, is His patience and his compassionate, artful handling of Arjuna. Even on the one rare occasion when He admonished Arjuna in very strong language, the tenor of the speech reverberates with the pain of the caring teacher.
Teaching the Bhagavad Geeta has been as much a rewarding experience for me as for my students. Together we have sought to get at the deepest of its insights, often to be rewarded by deep comprehension of ourselves. As will become evident, here instead of the usual verse and commentary form, the Bhagavad Geeta is sought to be re-presented through two characters Rashmi, a fictional, spiritual aspirant of the new millennium (in the position of Arjun of the original Text); and an extraordinary Master, (who is the old-time Arjun, now highly evolved through countless millennia, to be Master and mentor in his own right). The intention is to move the Text to contemporary time, make a new millennial the aspiring seeker, and have the teaching enriched by remembrances of the turmoil and travails of one who though a radiant Master now, had been a bright, professionally qualified and skilled, not too unpresumptuous young human being at one time. By this it is hoped that the dialogue between the Master and the aspirant will more easily resonate with the new millennium reader. It will be fulfilling for the author if this book leads readers to discern what it involves to live insightfully.
In the new setting, Rashmi, the aspirant is quite well-informed in spiritual philosophy and fairly adept in yogic practices. She arrives in the Himalayas as a member of a group that is proceeding to Mount Kailash. At a point on the trek, she finds herself led away by what she can only discern as a Presence, to an extraordinarily radiant Master in a mountain cave. Both, the Presence, and the extraordinary Being defy all identification, including gender. While the former is an imperceptible yet indubitable Presence, the latter is perceptible, though only as an extraordinarily radiant form. The Presence reaches Rashmi to the cave and leaves, reappearing only at the end to lead her safely back to the group from which she had been spirited away. As already mentioned, the Radiant One is Arjun, now a highly evolved being, and teacher and mentor to meritorious aspirants in the new millennium. This fact becomes surmisable from the references in the present dialogue with Rashmi, to an earlier Guru; who it can be safely conjectured is none other than Krsna.
On Rashmi's arrival in the cave, the Radiant Master makes it evident that her visit had been awaited, and that she should see it as part of her preparation for her own destined mission in the world. The Radiant Master then mentors her through exposition of the Bhagavad Geeta, the latter now transformed as a narrative of what transpired between oneself (the Master, who had been Arjuna earlier), and Krishna in an earlier time. Language is transcended throughout the exposition, both by the Master and the aspirant. Yet at the end, both are clear that the avowed purpose had been served. The aspirant exits the cave and is met by the Presence that had led her there. It leads her back to her group that is now at the Manasarovar, in time to leave for the parikrama of the Kailasha. The flute that she hears, but of which all others are unaware, signals to her that then onwards her life will need to be lived on a level removed from the ordinary.
This book is Rashmi's account of the Bhagavad Geeta as narrated and taught by the Radiant Master. Through her ruminations, doubts and questions, and her asides; and the Radiant Master's responses and elucidations, and his intuitive reading of Rashmi's mind; the issues treated in the Geeta are drawn to the foreground. The reader is nudged to reflect and contemplate, and thereby to be empathetically led to invaluable insight into human nature, its strengths, frailties, and potentialities, the way to 'real-ize' the potentialities; and through this to discover the ageless relevance of this Text, and its transcendence over religious divide. The subjects treated, such as death, the ego, ego-centeredness and its relation to pain and disquiet, the importance of getting control over one's mind and the ways to achieve this, human nature and its deep constitution, the difference between knowledge and wisdom, the question of what God really is, and such others; it will be agreed, clearly concern every one; regardless of one's religious allegiance, as also those who may have chosen to disconnect from all religious allegiance.
To enable ease of reading, the book is formatted thus: quotations from the Bhagavad Geeta are in italics. The teaching of the Master being interspersed with the ruminations of Rashmi, the former are in quotation marks, while the commencement of the latter is always marked by an asterisk; the ending then being marked by the opening of the quotation marks for the Master.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Brahma Sutras (77)
Yoga Vasistha (81)
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