The Bhagavad Gita has been widely acknowledged as a guide book for all mankind since it is not exclusively a scripture of Hindu religion. The ‘Roadmap’ outlined in Section-I of this book is valid for every practitioner of the path of devotion. The bhakti experiences of Vaishnava saints (Alvars) as well as devotees of Sri Rama and Lord Krishna have been described in Section-Il. Devotion and surrendering oneself to God, extending one’s love to all of God’s creations, and selflessness in the performance of one’s duties are cardinal principles emphasized by all religions as brought out in Section-Ill. Bhakti Marga is thus a common roadway usable by everyone who believes in a loving God who is reaching out to those who seek Him.
Shri S.T.V. Raghavan is a retired officer of ICAS closely involved with the activities of Bhavan’s Delhi Kendra. His earlier book Descent of Divinity and Ascent of Man has also been published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
This book explores the close link between selfless service and devotion to God as outlined in the Bhagavad Gita’s discourse on Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. The theme has been elaborated with illustrious examples from the noble lives of Vaishnava Alvars and the devotees of Sri Rama and Sri Krishna. The equanimity attained by the true devotee forms the concluding part of the narrative.
I am grateful to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan for bringing out this book as a Bhavan’s publication.
Among the sacred books of Hindu religion, Bhagavad Gita is the most intelligible text which can be read and understood by one and all. It is not identified solely with Hindu religion and hence its teachings are applicable to all mankind. In the specific context of Hindu philosophy it is grouped along with Upanishads and Brahmasutra as Prasthanatraya which provide the basis for the various schools of Vedanta expounded by the great Acharyas Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva and others. As the goal of Vedanta is release from samsara and union with the Ultimate Reality, Bhagavad Gita is also described as Yoga sastra and Brahmavidya.
Sage Vedavyasa, author of the Mahabharata is also recognized as the compiler of the Bhagavad Gita. He has included it in that great epic as Krishnaarjuna samvada, that is, dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna at Kurukshetra where the Pandavas and Kauravas are assembled with their respective armies for a terrible battle. Krishna is present at the scene as Arjuna’s charioteer. Just before the start of the battle Arjuna is suddenly seized with grief at the very thought of engaging in fight with his own kith and kin for the sake of a kingdom. He throws down his bow and tells Krishna that he has no desire for the kingdom and would take to sanyas rather than commit the sin of killing his relatives. The Bhagavad Gita is Sri Krishna’s answer to Arjuna’s grief counselling for action without egoism. He chides Arjuna for forgetting his Svadharma towards his brothers who had been badly cheated and illtreated by Duryodhana and his evil accomplices. Krishna also reminds him of his Svabhavadharma as Kshatriya, as he is the greatest warrior of his time. How could he run away from such a great opportunity to display his prowess? “Leave the outcome in M hands and act only as my tool in destroying these warriors of adharma” (B.G. XI-33 ..... niimittamaatram bhava).
Krishna’s advice was intended not only for Arjuna but for everyman to perform his obligatory duties. Such duties are those enjoined by his station in life and those which flow from his natural endowments (svabhava). He should perform them in a selfless manner without attachment, hatred or excitement and without seeking the fruits for himself. This is the great doctrine of nishkamakarma which is central to the Gita. Since no one can cultivate such an attitude in a vacuum, this teaching of Karma Yoga is further fortified by the Teacher by asking man to give up his sense of doership and dedicate all his actions as an offering to God. At that stage Karma Yoga ripens into Bhakti yoga.
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