Bhagavan would quote and comment on the Bhagavad Gita when speaking to devotees. Among the many references to the Gita in the Ashram literature, the following is characteristic of Bhagavan's insight in to this scripture.
Sri Bhagavan made some interesting observations on the Bhagavad Gita. Referring to Viswarupa-Sandarshan (Vision of the Universal Form), Sri Bhagaan said: "The whole episode is really a wonder. Sri Krishna tells Arjuna 'Now here within my body you see the entire universe movable and immovable, and also whatever besides you would like to see.' If it were a form, however vast, how could Arjuna see in it whatever he (Arjuna) fancied? Again the Lord says, 'You see all Gods, Siddhas, Maharshis etc. within my body.' Arjuna admits that he sees them all, and in the same breath he says that they are all bowing to the Lord and singing hallelujahs! Now where do they stand in relation to the Lord's body, inside or outside? Where does Arjuna himself stand? These seeming inconsistencies will be obviate only when we realise that what Arjuna is being shown is not Viswarupa (Universal Form or shape) but Viswa-Atma (The Self as Universe)."
The contents of this book were first published serially in The Mountain Path, the quarterly journal of Sri Ramanasramam, from April 1965 to October 1969.
They were later published in book form by the ashram in June 1973. In this second edition the Sanskrit text and an English translation have been included with the English translation.
There are also two new appendices. The first is the Gita Saram, the 42 verses chosen by Bhagavan which reveal the essence of the Gita. The second is a facsimile of the typed pages of Alan Chadwick's translation of the Gita Saram together with Bhagavan's handwritten corrections.
The Brahmasutras, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita are regarded as the Prasthanatrayi or 'threefold scriptures' of Hinduism. Of these the Gita is the most widely read and loved and has been most often translated. There is, however, to our knowledge poetry is always a formidable task, and when the poetry is also scripture it becomes far more so, since every word has significance and should be adequately rendered. There are a number of 'literary' translation, from Edwin Arnold downwards, but all of them blur the clear lines of doctrine and given too vague an indication of the meaning. In India a number of more literal translations have been made, but these are mostly in ungainly English, and even so the rendering is seldom precise and adequate. It is hoped in this translation to combine fidelity with good English, but the first emphasis will be on fidelity, since no one is authorised to tamper with scripture.
The Gita is an episode in one of India's two great epic poems, the Mahabharrata. This is a vast work, many times longer than religious and ethical teaching but is mainly centred around the quarrel between the Pandavas and Kauravas culminating in the Battle of Kurukshetra. Briefly the story is this.
King Pandu had five sons who were accordingly known as the Pandavas. After his brother Dhritarashtra became king and brought up Pandu's five together with his own hundred sons. He was blind and weak and could not restrain his sons, especially the eldest of whom, Durydana, was violent and treacherous. They plotted against the Pandavas, tricked them out of their heritage and drove them into exile. The final result of this was the great Battle of Kurukshetra in which most of the Aryan kings were aligned with one side or the other and the flower of Indian chivalry was destroyed.
This human cycle or munvantara is said to be divided into four ages or yugas of progressively diminishing excellence, equivalent to the ancient Western conception of the four ages of gold, silver, copper and iron. The Battle of Kurukshetra is held by some to mark the transition from the third age to the fourth, the kali-yuga or 'dark age' in which we now live.
Krishna, the Avatar or Divine Incarnation, was living at this time as Prince of Mathura. Both sides sought his alliance. He was bond by affection to the Pandavas and recognized their noble qualities, but felt some obligation to the Kauravas also. Therefore, when both sides came to claim his alliance, he said that one could have his army while he himself would go with the other, but unarmed. The Kauravas chose army, while Arjuna, the most famous of the Pandavas, chose Krishna himself to go with him as his charioteer. Those who placed material aid above spiritual thereby sealed their doom.
Just as the battle was beginning, Arjuna told Krishna to drive his chariot between the two armies. Seeing , mighty concourse gathered for mutual destruction seeing moreover friends, relatives and revered elders on the side of the enemy as wall as his own, his heart failed him. He did not desire victory or dominion, he declared, if won by such laughter. "Better for me were the sons of Dhritarashtra, weapon in hand, to slay me unarmed and unresisting."
Krishna, however, will have none of this non-violence. He explains to Arjuna that it is his duty as a kshatriya, a member of the warrior caste, to destroy evil and uphold righteousness. In this dramatic setting develops a complete exposition of the meaning and purpose of life and the men can tread to its fulfilment.
The story is supposed to be told to Dhritarashtra by Sanjaya who witnessed and over heard it all.
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