B L Razdan
No matter how educated or learned you are, you tend to live your life in darkness; till the time, you get enlightened with the spiritual, supreme and divine knowledge of Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, the most sacred, important Hindu scripture. Gita Jayanti is the birthday of Bhagavad Gita. This day falls on Shukla Ekadashi of the Margashirsha month and according to the English calendar, this festival falls in the month of November or December. It is that sacred day when Lord Krishna gave the immortal message to Arjuna in Kurukshetra. The followers of Lord Krishna all over the world celebrate this day. This year Gita Jayanti falls on 14th December 2021 according to the lunar calendar.
On this day, around 3000 BC, Gita was revealed to Arjuna by Lord Krishna. Apart from the profundity and beauty of the Gita in its meaning, one has to also pause and see the beauty of the setting.
Very often spirituality is associated with a calm and serene environment – beautiful mountains, valleys and rivers. The setting of the Gita is hugely different. It is at the heart of the battlefield where the dialogue is between Krishna, the teacher, and Arjuna, the disciple. In the midst of battle when the martial music is on, the drums and bugles are blaring amidst the challenge to the opposing forces. Arjuna is beset with existential issues and seeks a spiritual solution to it from Lord Krishna, who decides to teach him right then and there amidst the trumpeting elephants and the neighing horses. Can you imagine the focus it took for the teacher and the student to be able to discuss and understand the highest truth of the Vedic wisdom? When we teach today, the honking of a passing car or the sound of children playing in the building compound is considered a disturbance as we try to keep the sounds out.
Whereas in the battlefield, one of the greatest teachers of the land and one of the greatest students in history, a warrior prince, discussed and understood the highest Vedantic truth. The subject matter of the Gita is too long to be discussed here but just the setting itself shows us that the truth can be accessed and understood even on a battlefield. If it can be done there it can be done anywhere in the world. To know the truth, it does not matter what the environment is. You carry your environment within you. The more centered you are the easier it is to focus on what is really important. This is applicable not only for the truth but everything else in life as well. Gita is the real repository of all principles of love, peace, respect, brotherhood, devotion, penance, and finally salvation. One of its 700 shlokas is enough to grant peace of mind to a troubled soul.
Gita Jayanti is celebrated by reading the Bhagavad Gita and discussing it with the learned priests and scholars about how it has been benefiting humanity for centuries and even today. Followers of Lord Krishna also fast on this Ekadashi and sing devotional songs and dance. People perform puja and distribute sweets. The main purpose of celebrating Gita Jayanti is to recall the words of Gita and to apply it in our daily life. It allows individuals and families to lead a courageous and an active and productive life.
The Gita does not advocate giving up on life and retiring to forests. On the other hand, it enables you to enjoy life to the fullest while focusing on inner enrichment. The 18th chapter summarises the entire Gita. It deals with the transformation of the individual from a finite, powerless victim into the infinite, omnipotent victor.
The human body is designed for action. Action gives joy. Inaction leads to depression. Selfish action results in failure and sorrow. Thought of self is the greatest barrier to success and all selfish people are unhappy. When you dedicate action to a higher cause you become creative, energetic and efficient. You are happy and you grow. All the greats in history were not necessarily hugely talented or brilliant. But they all worked for a cause greater than themselves. When the action is directed towards God, it becomes thrilling! You move towards Self-realisation.
Indifference is not an option, according to Gita. When you feel for others but the feeling is tainted by expectations and you make demands on others, the relationship devolves into conflict and bitterness. When you love another with flaws and shortcomings, without expectations, it leads to a wonderful relationship. When your love shifts to that Power that has bestowed you with a million blessings, it becomes Divine!
The intellect discriminates between pairs of opposites. A dull, undeveloped intellect leads to confusion, loss and sorrow. A sharp, clear intellect guarantees prosperity and success. An intellect focused on world welfare gives happiness. When the intellect distinguishes between the eternal and the ephemeral, you get anchored in the permanent and reach enlightenment. The intellect is most important; it needs to be developed and strengthened with independent, original thinking. Thus the mortal, gross body, mind and intellect can transport you to the immortal, subtle Spirit. Only then are you truly fulfilled.
During the days of Mahabharata, Brahmins were predominantly sattvika, highly refined individuals – leaders and visionaries. They naturally took to study, research and teaching in the fields of science, medicine, engineering and so on. They excelled in soft skills like music, art, literature and philosophy. They were advisors to members of other castes, particularly in the field of ethics and morality. Ancient India was led by the wise, not by the wealthy. The wise guided the wealthy kshatriyas and protected them from the corrupt influence of wealth and power. The kshatriyas, the warrior caste with administrative and management skills, were predominantly rajasika. Vaishyas, the people comprising traders and businessmen, had more tamas and less sattva. The shudras, the labour class, were predominantly tamasika. These categories were not based on heredity; these were as per a person’s proclivities and personal traits.
Krishna encapsulates the entire spiritual path starting with Karma, Bhakti and Jnana Yogas and concludes with meditation. Karma Yoga is acting with the attitude of giving, not taking. Bhakti Yoga is inclusive love, not exclusive attachment. Jnana Yoga is distilling the permanent from the transient aspects of life. If you maintain your focus on Atman you will overcome all obstacles. When you are free of the bulk of desires you are fit for meditation. In the intense heat of meditation the last traces of desire vanish and you become God!
Krishna then leaves you to do as you wish. The Gita is not a doctrine of adesha, commandments, to be accepted without question. It is upadesha, advice based on logical, scientific exposition on the human personality. Reflect on these, experiment with them and draw your own conclusions – just as you would in physics or chemistry. Then you will experience the truths laid down in the Gita and find liberation while living in the world.
(The author formerly of the Indian Revenue Service, retired as Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Chandigarh. Post-retirement, he is actively associated with medical, educational, cultural and heritage issues and joined various societies and trusts to promote these objectives. Occasionally he contributes articles of contemporary relevance in Newspapers and Magazines. He is also a Trustee of Vitasta Health Care Trust.)